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Grounds for Agreement

The Political Economy of the Coffee Commodity Chain

John M. Talbot

As the popularity of coffee and coffee shops has grown worldwide in recent years, so has another trend—globalization, which has greatly affected growers and distributors. This book analyzes changes in the structure of the coffee commodity chain since World War II. It follows the typical consumer dollar spent on coffee in the developed world and shows how this dollar is divided up among the coffee growers, processors, states, and transnational corporations involved in the chain. By tracing how this division of the coffee dollar has changed over time, Grounds for Agreement demonstrates that the politically regulated world market that prevailed from the 1960s through the 1980s was more fair for coffee growers than is the current, globalized market controlled by the corporations. Talbot explains why fair trade and organic coffees, by themselves, are not adequate to ensure fairness for all coffee growers and he argues that a return to a politically regulated market is the best way to solve the current crisis among coffee growers and producers. « less more »
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Pages: 256Size: 6 3/4 x 9 1/4
978-0-7425-2628-0 • Hardback • August 2004 • $108.00 • (£70.00)
978-0-7425-2629-7 • Paperback • July 2004 • $44.00 • (£29.95)
978-1-4616-3712-7 • eBook • July 2004 • $41.00 • (£27.95)
John M. Talbot is a lecturer in sociology at the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus, Jamaica.
Chapter 1 Introduction
Chapter 2 Theoretical and Methodological Grounds for the Analysis
Chapter 3 Material and Historical Grounds for the Analysis
Chapter 4 The Coffee Commodity Chain under U.S. Hegemony, 1945-1972
Chapter 5 Struggles Over Regulation of the Chain, 1973-1989
Chapter 6 Globalization and Coffee Crises, 1990-?
Chapter 7 The Struggle for Control of the Instant Coffee Commodity Chain
Chapter 8 Outcomes of the Struggles: Where Does Your Coffee Dollar Go?
Chapter 9 Solutions? Specialty, Organic, and Fair-Trade Coffees
Chapter 10 Conclusion: Toward a Reregulated Market
John Talbot's account of the relations of the world coffee industry is a model of analytical lucidity. While the story line concerns coffee, it is also an important study of the politics and ecology of the world market, revealing its contending institutional forces, cycles of regulation, and the social implications of its crises for the producing regions. Most intriguing is the way Talbot explores struggles over control of the coffee chain to chart the rise of specialty coffees, extending to organic and fair-trade coffees, as solutions to contention and crisis. More than commodity chain analysis, this is an in-depth examination of the social and power relations of the global circuits of coffee.
Philip McMichael, Cornell University

Talbot's study is a gripping tale of how transnational corporations exploit the labor of farmers in the tropics. His historically deep analysis supports the claims of the movement for globalization from below?-that democratic global institutions are needed to reduce poverty and environmental degradation.
Christopher Chase-Dunn, Institute for Research on World-Systems, University of California, Riverside

This is a valuable addition to the literature on coffee and an interesting case study of an important commodity. Highly recommended.

John M. Talbot accomplishes an exceptional feat in his new book. This work should serve as a model for other critical studies of the dynamics of actually existing global capitalism.
Labor History

This rigorous, insightful analysis of one of the most critical aspects of the global economy could not be more timely. In a world where the economic fate of most poor countries depends increasingly on commodity exports, understanding how markets and institutions shape the economic opportunities and potential benefits embodied in such exports is essential. Talbot's rich, careful analysis of the world's most important agricultural export should be required reading for anyone who wants to understand globalization.
Peter Evans, Eliaser Chair of International Studies, University of California at Berkeley

• Winner, Winner of American Sociological Association's 2005 Political Economy of the World Systems Distinguished Book Award