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‘Food, Consumption & Taste’ Alan Warde


Food, Consumption and Taste: culinary antinomies and commodity culture by Alan Warde (Sage Publications, 1997)

Consumption, Food & Taste, by Alan Warde

Consumption, Food & Taste, by Alan Warde

Food matters. It is now a political issue, a matter of leisure and recreation, a topic of health, a resource for media industries, as well as a primary necessity of daily life. However, when Sociology has paid it attention it has been food production, rather than food consumption, aka eating, that has been addressed. Consumption emerged as a general a topic of concern in the 1980s, and Alan Warde’s book sought to look at eating in the light of new theories about consumption.

The book outlines competing general theories of social change in the late 20th century and considers the parallels between their diagnosis of consumer behaviour and actual trends in food practices in the home and when eating out. He argues that practical dilemmas of modern life and certain imperatives of consumer culture make sense of food selection. He suggests that contemporary consumption is best viewed as a process of continual highly constrained selection among an unprecedented range of newly accessible food items which are made available both commercially and informally.

The book was based upon several systematic research projects, very much in line with Manchester’s commitment to theoretically informed empirical sociology. The studies  included a comparison of the contents of recipes in British women’s magazines in the 1960s and 1990s to examine changes in recommendations about what it was best to feed people with; changes in advertisements for food over the same period; and a study of divisions of labour within households surrounding the provision of meals. The book is widely cited as a contribution to the development of the sociology of food and eating through its demonstration of how people in different social positions organise their eating in different ways and also as a work on theories of taste more generally.


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