The Myth of the Market: Ethical Capitalism and the End of Empire

This talk tells the story of why and how global humanitarian campaigns became embedded in everyday life in Britain. From fair trade and second hand shops to boycotts, it recovers how during the second half of the twentieth century ordinary British citizens came to see their economic lives connected to a new political constituency —“humanity”— stretching far beyond national borders. As policymakers, diplomats, and aid experts struggled to find new solutions to world hunger through development and modernization schemes, these market-based activities became an effective tool for nongovernmental organizations to include ordinary citizens in a global community of care. Beginning with the aftermath of total wars to the neoliberal era of the 1980s, the global market became the basis for imagining solidarities and expressing empathy, albeit replicating the very same inequalities that often produced global suffering in the first place.