A review and manifesto

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.

in Innovation by demand
Editors: Stan Metcalfe and Alan Warde

There has been increasing interest and debate in recent years on the instituted nature of economic processes in general and the related ideas of the market and the competitive process in particular. This debate lies at the interface between two largely independent disciplines, economics and sociology, and reflects an attempt to bring the two fields of discourse more closely together. This book explores this interface in a number of ways, looking at the competitive process and market relations from a number of different perspectives. It considers the social role of economic institutions in society and examines the various meanings embedded in the word 'markets', as well as developing arguments on the nature of competition as an instituted economic process. The close of the twentieth century saw a virtual canonisation of markets as the best, indeed the only really effective, way to govern an economic system. The market organisation being canonised was simple and pure, along the lines of the standard textbook model in economics. The book discusses the concepts of polysemy , idealism, cognition, materiality and cultural economy. Michael Best provides an account of regional economic adaptation to changed market circumstances. This is the story of the dynamics of capitalism focused on the resurgence of the Route 128 region around Boston following its decline in the mid-1980s in the face of competition from Silicon Valley. The book also addresses the question of how this resurgence was achieved.

Open Access (free)

This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book provides a critical evaluation of the idea of the market as the definitive form of co-ordination and of the socially embedded nature of market processes. It explores the idea of competition as an instituted economic process. The book focuses on an empirical study of cultural industries in East London. It also explores the instituted arrangements constituting the 'peculiar economics' of professional sports. The book presents an analysis of the emergence of one particular market in the UK, that for computer software. It examines some of the conditions which resulted in the UK coming to specialise in services to client companies rather than the production of software packages for an arm's length market. The book also provides an account of regional economic adaptation to changed market circumstances.

in Market relations and the competitive process
Open Access (free)

This conclusion presents some closing thoughts on concepts discussed in preceding chapters of this book. The book resides within a now-flourishing broader stream of ideas at the interface between economics and sociology. It contributes more to a sophisticated understanding of particular markets than they do to the theory of the general market system. Market activity implies that buyers and sellers are 'brought together' across time and space and that transactions are consummated and recorded. During the 1990s, sociological investigation of markets has tended to abandon earlier concerns with the social effects of the operation of markets and to concentrate instead on the social processes by which markets are made. As with the new economic sociology, evolutionary economists are wedded to a more sophisticated notion of individual behaviour than that embedded in the idea of Olympian rationality.

in Market relations and the competitive process
Open Access (free)

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.

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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.

in Qualities of food
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Quality and processes of qualification

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.

in Qualities of food