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Human Rights and Capitalism

A Multidisciplinary Perspective on Globalisation

Edited by Janet Dine and Andrew Fagan

Human Rights and Capitalism brings together two important facets of the globalisation debate and examines the complex relationship between human rights, property rights and capitalist economies.
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Chapter 5: Buying Right: Consuming Ethically and Human Rights

Andrew Fagan


Andrew Fagan INTRODUCTION Can shopping positively contribute to the promotion and protection of human rights? The discourse of human rights has long been dominated by a concern for the dichotomous relationship between states and individuals. The relative simplicity of this picture has been complicated in recent years in a variety of ways. For example, the emergence and influence of international and national non-governmental movements which, in effect, occupy an intermediate position between states and individuals have, through their work, altered the nature of the relationship between states and individuals. One consequence of the emergence of international non-governmental organisations has been the creation of relationships between collections of individuals which both cross national and even continental boundaries and, in so doing, bypass national governments. The bulk of the efforts of these organisations has consisted of such things as raising awareness of human rights abuses, mobilising campaigns against those responsible for these abuses, exerting pressure on governmental and inter-governmental institutions to take direct action against the abusers, and raising funds to maintain these campaigns. Until relatively recently few within this field considered the possibility of promoting and protecting social and economic rights by means of going shopping. However, the emergence of what I shall henceforth refer to as the phenomenon of ‘ethical shopping’ offers precisely this promise. Through shopping ethically, we consumers residing in the affluent countries of the world are presented with the opportunity of enhancing human rights through spending our money not simply on media campaigns and pamphlet...

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