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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The book reports on a major mixed-methods research project on dining out in England. It is a re-study of the populations of three cities – London, Bristol and Preston – based on a unique systematic comparison of behaviour between 2015 and 1995. It reveals social differences in practice and charts the dynamic relationship between eating in and eating out. It addresses topics including the changing frequency and meaning of dining out, patterns of domestic hospitality, changing domestic divisions of labour around food preparation, the variety of culinary experience for different sections of the population, class differences in taste and the pleasures and satisfactions associated with eating out. It shows how the practice of eating out in the three cities has evolved over twenty years. The findings are put in the context of controversies about the nature of taste, the role of social class, the application of theories of practice and the effects of institutional change in the UK. The subject matter is central to many disciplines: Food Studies, Sociology, Anthropology, Cultural Studies, Marketing, Hospitality and Tourism Studies, Media and Communication, Social History, Social and Cultural Geography. It is suitable for scholars, researchers, postgraduate students and advanced undergraduate students in the UK, Europe, North America and East Asia. Academic interest in the book should be accentuated by its theoretical, methodological and substantive aspects. It will also be of interest to the catering trades and a general readership on the back of burgeoning interest in food and eating fostered by mass and social media.
Dining out, or eating a main meal away from home, is now a symbolically significant popular activity which provides a complementary source of food and companionship. This chapter introduces a book examining dining out both as customers in commercial venues and as guests of friends and non-resident kin. It describes the outline of a re-study of an activity with considerable cultural and symbolic significance. It also identifies key debates in cultural sociology in the twenty-first century around theories of globalisation, cultural omnivorousness, cultural intermediation and aestheticisation.
Eating out occurs under the auspices of three different modes of delivery: the domestic, the communal and the commercial. This chapter compares and contrasts the behaviours in those modes and examines how people put the available options together in order to coordinate many different events. It includes evidence about the use of convenience foods and takeaways and considerations of saving time, as well as eating in restaurants. Through events separately and in their overall combination, people seek to meet functional, social and moral objectives and obligations. From the point of view of individuals, this might be conceptualised as requiring a complex imaginary equation which computes costs of money, time, quality and personal reputation. Considerable variation between households is apparent. Detailed vignettes of interviewees show how each finds different solutions to the problem of permutating varied types of events to construct the platform for their eating arrangements.
Eating out in a restaurant was a very gratifying experience in 1995 and, by and large, it remains so, although on all dimensions satisfaction has diminished. This chapter investigates aspects of the performance of dining out in commercial settings, examining in turn the nature and changes in the purposes of dining out, typical companions, service, dishes and meals. In each instance we describe contemporary practice and, where possible, make comparison with 1995. Restaurant meals have become increasingly ordinary events, consistent with a process of familiarisation. Nevertheless, a substantial proportion of events remain special, involving dressing up, and eating several courses over an extended period of time, which do deliver great enjoyment, reflecting polarisation of provision within the market. Diversity of experience is increasing, apparent in the range of foods and cuisines consumed.
This chapter shows how dining out has become more familiar to more people over the twenty years since 1995. It examines who visits which types of restaurant and how frequently, showing how often people eat out and who eats out most, on the basis of survey evidence. It reports on how personal orientations affect the frequency of eating in restaurants. It examines exposure of survey respondents to the variety of different types of restaurant in 2015 and compares that with 1995. It concludes that eating out is both necessary and discretionary. There has been a modest increase in the rate of eating out as the tempo has stepped up. Familiarisation with the practice makes dining out less special, so while it is still highly pleasurable, satisfaction with commercially provided meals has declined.