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How far can we push sceptical reflexivity? An analysis of marketing ethics and the certification of poverty

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This paper seeks to explore how far we can push sceptical reflexivity to open up new avenues of exploration in the field of marketing, through a study of ethics in Fair Trade clothing. The paper addresses three issues in contemporary studies of marketing. First, ethics are used as a focus for investigating the practices of marketing. Second, attempts to standardise ethics into marketable products are explored. Third, the possibilities offered by a reflexive take on marketing ethics are analysed. The paper addresses these three issues by drawing together and interrogating ideas from Science and Technology Studies (STS) and marketing. A thorough-going reflexive scepticism is adopted which leaves nothing taken for granted, addressing the nature of what might be meant by, for example, products and marketing and the world to which they aspire. Furthermore, an STS-inspired inversion is performed on marketing. In place of a conventional notion that marketing involves "launching" products into the world, comes a notion that marketing could be considered as "launching" a version of the world into the product. This opens up opportunities for exploring possible tensions between reflexive scepticism and ethics. The conclusion of the paper assesses the utility of this sceptical inversion for opening up new questions and new ideas for marketing and for STS.
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Keywords: ACTOR NETWORK THEORY; ETHICS; FAIR TRADE; MARKETING; REFLEXIVITY; SCEPTICISM; STS

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2009-09-01

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