This article traces the history of the Nestlé boycott, one of the most well-known and successful boycotts of the 1970s. As part of the campaign to end bottle-feeding in Third World societies, it called for the global regulation of controversial marketing strategies implemented by Western formula companies. The story adds a crucial yet understudied aspect of rights discourse in the 1970s, when humanitarian activists strove to reform the global market and create ethical forms of capitalism. The history of the boycott may seem like a marginal tale within this history, but it is illuminating both for what it teaches us about the role of multinational companies, ethics, and the market in the period, and for what it reveals about the global history of human rights and humanitarianism. The history of the campaign allows us to uncover how in the 1970s not only diplomats and non-governmental organizations, but also ordinary people, business experts, and even multinational corporations became part of the project of feeding the world’s hungry. By politicizing breastfeeding, the Nestlé boycott played an important role in changing how those in the Third World were conceived by aid programs, transforming them from producers to consumers in the global market. While international attempts to limit the power of these corporations have failed, the Nestlé boycott became a somewhat minimal solution that emphasized the moral responsibilities of corporations. It offered a “weak” form of utopianism that emerged after the end of empire and attempted to reform global inequalities through the market.
Monday, January 9, 2017
Sasson: Milking the Third World? Humanitarianism, Capitalism, and the Moral Economy of the Nestle´ Boycott
Tehila Sasson (Institute for Historical Research) has published Milking the Third World? Humanitarianism, Capitalism, and the Moral Economy of the Nestle´ Boycott (American Historical Review, Vol. 121, no. 4, pp. 1196-1224, October 2016). Here's the abstract: