Congresos y reuniones científicas
Quality regimes in agro-food industries: Regulationist and conventionalist readings of Fair Trade wine
Conferencia; Renouveler les approaches institutionnalistes sur l?agriculture et l?alimentation: La ?grande transformation? 20 ans après; 2014
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In this paper, we examine whether Fair Trade provides a meaningful economic alternative that goes beyond the benefits accrued by its beneficiaries. First, we review the contribution and limitations of convention theory and its articulations with political economy approaches, such as global value chain analysis, to the debate of how quality regimes shape the transformation of the agro-food sector. Then, we apply a regulation theory approach, adapted to the sectoral level, to the case study of Fair Trade wine in Argentina. This allows us to tackle two of the main deficiencies of the existing literature on Fair Trade. First, regulation theory provides theoretical elements that make possible a holistic understanding of Fair Trade that goes beyond the fragmented approaches that focus separately on the spheres of production, circulation or consumption ? to explain how it is embedded in a broader economic system. Second, it provides useful criteria to assess the originality of Fair Trade vis à vis the ?conventional? economy. We conclude that Fair Trade, despite some important innovations, does not substantially deviate from the mode of regulation of the conventional wine economy in Argentina. It is even supporting the current transition towards a new regime of accumulation based on exports of fine wine. Instead of empowering the most vulnerable groups, those producing table wine for the domestic market, Fair Trade is actually further marginalizing them. We conclude with a call for renewed engagement with the research agenda originally set in La grande transformation de l?agriculture (Allaire and Boyer, 1994), which called for mutual engagement of regulationist and conventionalist approaches in explaning the dynamics of restructuring in agro-food industries. This research agenda has been relatively neglected in the past two decades, but is still relevant today as it was then.