Moralizing Postcolonial Consumer Society: Fair Trade in the Netherlands, 1964–1997
By Peter van Dam
Decolonization challenged people across the globe to define their place in a new postcolonial order. This challenge was felt in international political and economic affairs, but it also affected daily lives across the globe. The history of fair trade activism as seen from the Netherlands highlights how citizens in the North grappled to position themselves in a postcolonial consumer society. Interventions by fair trade activists connected debates about the morals of their society to the consequences of decolonization. They reacted to the imbalances of the global market in the wake of decolonization, joining critics from the South in demanding more equitable global relations. It was around this issue of “fair trade” that a transnational coalition of moderate and more radical activists emerged after the 1960s. This coalition held widely dissimilar views regarding the politics of the left and the use of consumer activism. The analysis of their interventions demonstrates that during the postwar era attempts at transforming the global market were inextricably interwoven with visions of a postcolonial order.