This chapter reflects on the development of sociological approaches to consumption and their contribution to the explanation of consumer behaviour. Tentative and programmatic, it is concerned with defining some of the ways in which sociology might proceed in analysing consumption. It offers some record of recent developments and achievements. It is cast as a reflection on the limits of a key concept, conspicuous consumption, arguing that sociological explanations have paid too much attention to the visible and the remarkable and have therefore generalised too widely from acts of conspicuous consumption. The chapter reviews a number of mechanisms which generate ordinary and inconspicuous consumption. This permits the identification of some important and neglected inconspicuous features of final consumption. Processes examined include habituation, routinisation, normalisation, appropriation and singularisation, putative bases for understanding the dull compulsion to consume. Asserting a distinction in the ways that economists and sociologists use the concepts of demand and consumption, the chapter contributes to interdisciplinary dialogue.
This book explores the new applications of established theories or adapts theoretical approaches in order to illuminate behaviour in the field of food. It focuses on social processes at the downstream end of the food chain, processes of distribution and consumption. The book reviews the existing disciplinary approaches to understanding judgements about food taste. It suggests that the quality 'halal' is the result of a social and economic consensus between the different generations and cultures of migrant Muslims as distinct from the non-Muslim majority. Food quality is to be viewed in terms of emergent cognitive paradigms sustained within food product networks that encompass a wide range of social actors with a wide variety of intermediaries, professional and governmental. The creation of the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) occurred at a juncture when perceptions of policy failure were acknowledged at United Kingdom and European Union governmental levels. The book presents a case study of retailer-led food governance in the UK to examine how different 'quality logics' actually collide in the competitive world of food consumption and production. It argues that concerns around food safety were provoked by the emergence of a new food aesthetic based on 'relationalism' and 'embeddedness'. The book also argues that the study of the arguments and discourses deployed to criticise or otherwise qualify consumption is important to the political morality of consumption.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book focuses on highly contentious issue, that of the use of the intriguing concept of quality. It explores new applications of established theories and adapts theoretical approaches in order to illuminate behaviour in the field of food. The book presents existing disciplinary approaches to understand judgements about taste. It also presents economists' approaches to quality and demand with a view to providing a more adequate and persuasive account. The book shows how complex, and also how almost whimsical, are the social processes involved in convincing people that a product about to be purchased has a particular desired attribute. It considers a form of challenge, orchestrated primarily by groups of agricultural producers, to the conventional industrial food system.
This conclusion presents some closing thoughts on concepts discussed in the preceding chapters of this book. The book describes that quality is inevitably about controversy over standards, and presents a set of diverse and detailed observations. It analyses of what it is to make a claim that something is of better quality than something else. The book focuses on a number of contrasting approaches to quality of food. It describes that different quality attributes could also have included contributions from sensory studies, biology, toxicology, psychology and others. It illustrates some of the ways in which the duty of interpretation may be conducted, suggesting a number of different ways to handle the quandaries of judgement. The book examines quality in the consumption sphere, several of the contributions have tacitly recognised links to commercial considerations.