Alternative Food Networks and the Socialization of Food

Gilles Allaire (2021)

In: Maurer, Andrea (ed.), Handbook of Economic Sociology for the 21st Century. Cham: Springer, pp. 221-235

Abstract. The Alternative Food Networks’ (AFN) conceptual framework appeared in the context of the internationalization of food provision systems, and of the so-called quality turn, to distinguish food networks connecting territories, products, and people, which claim to be alternatives to conventional food systems, or alternatives to dominant food supply chains. Alternativeness and localness are not clearly defined. However, the concept of AFN covers a wide variety of phenomena related to product qualifications: organic, fair trade, geographical indications, and regional, local, artisanal, natural, ethnic, and premium specialties. It also covers phenomena related to market social infrastructures, from transnational standards to a variety of local food. This chapter puts the analysis of the development of AFNs in the historical perspective of industrialization and socialization of food, by addressing several theoretical propositions: food regimes approach, conventionalization and commodification debates, and nested markets. These analyses cause one to rethink markets as social spaces. We propose a conceptual framework which considers markets as control projects, quality as social order, and regimes of competition as market social infrastructures. Alternative dynamics appear to participate in a shift from an industrial market regime (modern socialization) to a media market regime (neoliberal socialization).

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