Despite a wealth of academic literature critiquing current tensions within the Fair Trade (FT) movement, very little work has focused on examining the birth and evolution of the FT movement within the broader context of the international political economy (IPE), specifically in reference to the ideological and policy changes that ushered in an era of free trade and deregulated markets for both trade and finance. From such an optic, it is no longer enough to merely question the extent to which the market should be engaged. Rather, one must question whether the engagement of the market strips the movement of its power to affect long term development in local economies. Drawing upon the historical record, this thesis focuses attention on the complexity of the linkages that exist between political ideology, trade policy, and development. While Fair Trade is commonly understood to be a responsive effort to create more equitable trade relations with producers in the least developed countries, less emphasis is placed on understanding the state-centered political structures that contributed to a capitalist push-back and the implementation of today's liberalized trade policy, and yet to do so is absolutely critical if we are to gain a deeper understanding of the limits and constraints of Fair Trade. Full engagement with mainstream markets has led to robust growth in the FT market per annum, yet countries that are heavily engaged with the FT market show little evidence of development or poverty reduction at a macro-level. Thus, Fair Trade must define itself as more than principled opposition to labor exploitation if it is to present itself as a credible instrument of economic development.