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Transnational productions of Englishness

South Africa in the post-imperial metropole

Laura Chrisman

The transformation of English national identity began with Margaret Thatcher's 1979 government. The contemporary production of Englishness became, and continues to be, labour intensive, because England had lost the material foundation of that identity. The recently reformulated Englishness, variously referred to as ‘the new racism’ or ‘Thatcherism’, equates national community with the white race. This nationalist discourse eschews the openly racist language of biological superiority and uses, instead, the more coded language of cultural difference, to promote an English nation that is culturally homogeneous and exclusively white. The diasporic and postcolonial perspectives respectively contribute in important ways to the analysis of post-imperial Englishness. The element of cultural identity that emerges from this chapter contains both the element of Gilroy's xenophobia and that of Huggan's neo-colonial paternalism. The chapter concludes by addressing the impact of the contemporary liberation movement, and explores the historical relationship.

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G.M. Peter Swann

This chapter examines the way in which economists have understood demand. It argues that mainstream, neoclassical or ‘standard’ economists focus on demand as a process in which selections are made among commodities, typically assuming ‘rational’ and profit-maximising behaviour on the part of the actors making the selections. The chapter looks at the major contributors to the economics of consumption: in addition to the mainstream (the econometric paradigm, W. M. Gorman, A. S. Deaton, and J. Muellbauer), it considers the contributions of ‘the giants’ (including Adam Smith, Karl Marx, John Maynard Keynes, John Stuart Mill), and ‘the travellers’ (T. Scitovsky, J. K. Galbraith, P. Earl, William Arthur Lewis). It concludes that there is more to the economics of consumption than the mainstream economists' paradigm of utility maximisation. Indeed, it argues, economists should look to other disciplines for inspiration. Evolutionary economics in particular has taken on board some of the preoccupations of sociologists in its concept of the selection environment, in which non-market as well as market factors play a significant role in the selection process.

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Laura Chrisman

This chapter focuses on the important and influential article by postcolonial scholar David Lloyd, ‘Race Under Representation’, condensing a number of current dispositions in Western anti-foundationalist critical theory, political critique and colonial discourse analysis. It addresses only particular aspects of Lloyd's argument: his critique of the public sphere, and his accounts of the racialized subject and of anti-colonial subjectivity, and provides alternative approaches of Lloyd's work that help in the analysis of racial formation by connecting critical commentaries which engage with the political and critical implications. The chapter also examines the social and historical contradictions that link the public sphere to racism and other forms of social inequality. Lloyd explains ‘how the meshing of racial formations can take place between various levels and spheres of social practice, for example, between political and cultural spheres, or between the individual and the national level’.

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Theorising food quality

Some key issues in understanding its competitive production and regulation

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Terry Marsden

This chapter re-examines some of the key issues associated with the production and regulation of food quality. It examines the growing significance of 'short supply chains', with reference to some Europe-wide evidence. The chapter argues that it is necessary to examine the wider context of governance and consumer relations within which corporate retailers are engaged. It attempts to conceptualise the diversity and impacts of short food supply chains (SFSCs). These are bounded by the competing private sector and regulatory forces associated with retailer-led food governance. This competitive dialectic, played out in EU member states like the UK, is in part centred on the battleground of 'quality'. The chapter also 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.

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‘The Killer That Doesn’t Pay Back’

Chinua Achebe’s critique of cosmopolitics

Laura Chrisman

‘Cosmopolitics’ is what a number of liberal thinkers now advocate: a freely created, cosmopolitan cultural identity based on notions of ‘global’ citizenship. This chapter focuses on Achebe's historical account of imperialism through the Royal Mail, his suggestion that its promise of global citizenship is not only false but also fatal. Achebe's Home and Exile subtly and powerfully implicates contemporary cosmopolitical thought in the historical violence practised by European colonialism in Africa. Cosmopolitan perspectives are ultimately present-day expressions of the old ‘Pax Britannica’: the liberal story that Empire likes to tell about itself. Economic theft, social chaos and physical violence are beautifully condensed in the phrase ‘The Killer That Doesn't Pay Back’, which Achebe's youthful villagers used to describe the colonial British Post Office.

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Tale of the city

The imperial metropolis of Heart of Darkness

Laura Chrisman

This chapter outlines some of the ways in which late nineteenth-century European imperialism inheres in the textures of daily labour and leisure in Conrad's novella, suggesting that the Company's structures and agents, including Kurtz, need to be reinterpreted through this imperial metropolitan perspective. Ultimately, what animates and controls the Company and Kurtz are urban corporate power, public opinion and consumption. The chapter proposes the reading of Heart of Darkness as a path-clearing exercise for future critical and theoretical analyses of metropolitan imperialism. It justifies this modest activity on the grounds that it is precisely, and only, through close reading that the full import of the interplay of the metropolis and imperialism can be traced. The challenge Conrad's novella sets is to decasualize imperialism, expose its banality and recentre the metropole as its primary agent.

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Standards of taste and varieties of goodness

The (un)predictability of modern consumption

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Jukka Gronow

In modern food culture there are some relatively well-known and clear-cut aesthetic standards and etiquettes of taste to which some particular consumer goods or product groups belong and from which they derive their special worth and value. Gerhard Schulze's study Die Erlebnisgesellschaft, of a society emphasising subjectivity and inner experiences, includes many valuable insights and observations concerning the changing nature of modern consumption and the orientation of modern consumers. This chapter includes five principles of consumer demand. They are principle of correspondence, principle of abstraction, principle of accumulation, principle of variation and principle of autosuggestion. The social world perspective offers the best conceptual tools to develop an idea of an objective aesthetics which is open to change and which, in principle, encourages the creation of standards and is potentially receptive to new consumer goods.

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Mark Tomlinson and Andrew McMeekin

The existence of consumption routines is particularly significant for those interested in the diffusion of innovative consumer products. The implication is that existing routines need to be modified or broken for innovation to succeed. Product ranges are designed so that a hierarchy of products are offered to different social groups. Advertisements are also created and presented in a manner to make clear the social significance of consuming a certain good. The chapter defines a consumption routine as an executable capability for repeated consumption that has been learned or acquired by groups of consumers in response to social pressures or contexts. This notion of routine is taken from evolutionary economics, but is modified to take account of the sociology of consumption, in an explicit attempt to combine insights from both economic and sociological approaches. This chapter looks at the routine nature of food consumption and shows that both persistent social class and social mobility are significant determinants of changing routines, but operate in different ways for different foods.

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Social mechanisms generating demand

A review and manifesto

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Alan Warde

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.

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Tony Fitzpatrick

This chapter argues that social democracy is more robust than defenders of the new social democracy (NSD) imagine. The NSD represents an important strand in recent Centre-Left developments, but it is simplistic to imagine that the ‘old’ social democracy has been discredited. It argues that the difficulties the NSD faces are best addressed not by the productivist form of social democracy but by a post-productivist one. This chapter also analyses the strong and weak versions of the ‘social democracy is dead’ argument and evaluates the health of European social democracy.