Joanne Swaffield, David Evans & Daniel Welch (2018)
Geoforum, 89, p. 43-51
Abstract. In 2014, Tesco – one of the world’s largest food retailers – revealed that it had generated almost 57,000 tonnes of food waste in its UK operations over the previous twelve-month period. This shocking statistic added to existing evidence of a significant environmental and social problem in the UK and across the world. This paper utilises convention theory to examine the role of major retailers in the context of this global problem and assesses their motivations for acting on food waste. Drawing on interviews with key stakeholders (including major retailers), the analysis investigates their main justifications for action on food waste. It finds that retailers mostly appealed to three conventions or ‘orders of worth’ (civic, market and opinion) and used these as a basis for their commitment to food waste reduction. We argue that the combination of these different justifications is feasible and necessary in the context of the retail sector but that they may also lead to some unintended consequences (in the retail sector and beyond). Crucially, we demonstrate how the dilution of civic justifications (by their financial and reputational counterparts) might produce negative outcomes and inaction as retailers attempt to adhere to the so-called ‘food waste hierarchy’. The paper highlights the continuing significance of convention theory as a framework for analysing possible responses to the social and environmental challenges confronting global agro-food systems.
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Gael Plumecocq, Thomas Debril, Michel Duru, Marie-Benoît Magrini, Jean Pierre Sarthou
& Olivier Therond (2018)
Ecology and Society, 23(1):21
Abstract. In Western economies, several agriculture models coexist. For instance, intensive agriculture organization, which has increased yields while causing major pollution and resource depletion, competes with alternative models, which tackle these sustainability issues and lead to lower yields. An agronomical typology of current agriculture models in Western societies is proposed that describes multiple sustainability issues through an agroecological perspective. However, in order to choose between these agroecological pathways, we must understand their social structure and the principles underlying them. Thus, our purpose is to characterize the institutional aspects of the alternative models using socioeconomic convention theory. We conducted a series of workshops with specialists in the natural sciences (agronomy, landscape ecology, and entomology) and social sciences (economics and sociology) to describe sustainable agriculture models. This characterization revealed the values underlying six different sustainable agriculture models, their forms of organization, and the institutions governing them. We discuss the implications of the coexistence of these six models in light of sustainable transition issues. From this coexistence perspective, transition (i) refers to an intertwined process of legitimation and disqualification, and (ii) means seeing pathways as the multiplicity and degree of interconnection between models. Therefore, we (i) identified the elements in each model that legitimize its mode of organization, and (ii) disqualified the elements that are incompatible with the principles underlying the model’s practices. Moreover, we emphasize that multiple transition pathways are possible based on complex, complementary combinations of different models. This revealed the intricate processes of competition and complementarity involving these models. Finally, our study on the coexistence, interdependence, and coevolution of multiple agriculture models led us to advocate a precautionary principle so that marginal innovative models are not prevented from emerging.
Amélie Gonçalves & Thomas Zeroual (2017)
In: Soulard CT., Perrin C., Valette E. (eds) Toward Sustainable Relations Between Agriculture and the City. Urban Agriculture. Springer, Cham
Abstract. Short food supply chains (SFSCs) are often seen as being capable of making a valuable contribution to the provisioning of cities from an environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable perspective. However, there are doubts as to whether these supply chains deserve this reputation. They involve varied needs and logistical challenges for both farmers and cities, and can have equally varied, and sometimes adverse, economic, environmental and social impacts. These challenges and impacts seem also different from one chain to another. This chapter presents a theoretical framework to help understand these diverse challenges and impacts among SFSCs. Using the economics of conventions, we highlight the importance of coordination between production and demand. This framework is applied to SFSCs operating with one intermediary in the French region of Nord – Pas-de–Calais. Our observations show that the need for rapid and frequent deliveries remains important in SFSCs, making them vulnerable to the negative impacts associated with transport intensive flows of products. The management of information flows varies from one chain to another, and some require more complexity and exchanges between actors. The relationships created by these exchanges can have positive social impacts, creating ties between producers and customers. One type of chain appears particularly suited to the creation of sustainable logistic schemes.
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Patrick O’Keeffe (2018)
Agrarian and Human Values, 35(3), pp. 553–567
Abstract. This paper analyses Australian policy makers’ use of quantification and technologies of government to implement the project of Australian wheat export market liberalisation. I draw upon policy documents to analyse how quantification has been used to construct a simplified, governable conception of the wheat industry. Policy makers, I suggest, acted upon this constructed reality through assemblages of technologies such as performance objectives, audit, cost-benefit analysis and econometric modelling to facilitate wheat export market deregulation. In addition, this paper shows how quantification was used to delegitimise the social consequences of deregulation and marginalise farmers’ opposition to this shift. Thus, the erasure of the social world enabled policy makers to construct economic objectives such as efficiency and productivity as serving the national interest.
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Emmanuelle Cheyns, Stefano Ponte (2017)
In : Transformations et transitions dans l’agriculture et l’agroalimentaire, G. Allaire et B. Daviron (éds.), QUAE, Collection Synthèse.
Introduction. Au cours des deux dernières décennies, l’économie des conventions a influencé différents courants de recherche dans le domaine agro-alimentaire. Cette influence se repère dans le champ des sciences sociales anglophones (Wilkinson 1997; Raikes et al. 2000; Biggart et Beamish 2003; Stark 2009; du Gay et Morgan 2013 ; Barnett 2014 ; Diaz-Bone 2012), en particulier depuis la traduction en anglais, au milieu des années 2000, de deux références majeures : De la justification (Boltanski and Thevenot (1991)) et Le nouvel esprit du capitalisme (Boltanski and Chiapello (1999)). C’est en 1997 qu’apparaît le premier article dans la littérature anglophone se référant à l’école française de l’économie des conventions – sous la traduction de convention theory-, appliquée aux questions agro-alimentaires (Wilkinson, 1997). Par la suite, de nombreuses publications s’y sont référées , apportant un éclairage analytique majeur pour étudier le « tournant qualité » (quality turn) opéré dans les années 1990, l’émergence de réseaux alimentaires alternatifs, ainsi que les formes de coordination et de gouvernance dans les chaines de valeur. La convention theory dans les études agroalimentaires anglophones a attiré des chercheurs de nombreuses disciplines, la sociologie, mais aussi les études régionales et la géographie, dans la filiation des travaux de Salais et Storper (1992 et 1997), et l’économie politique internationale. […]
Lien Editeur / Link to QUAE
Texte HAL (2016 / PDF
Note de lecture : Thierry Pouch, « Gilles Allaire, Benoit DAVIRON (dir.). Transformations agricoles et agroalimentaires. Entre écologie et capitalisme », Économie rurale, 362 | 2017, 99-102.
Elizabeth Carter (2018)
Socio-Economic Review, 16(3), pp. 479–498
Abstract. At the heart of political organization, we find weak and atomized individuals who aggregate their power to challenge concentrated power. Wine politics show us that within market economies we find the same political movements. Markets, like politics, consist of institutions that differentially embed, codify and distribute power. In the case of France, small, individually weak wine producers became powerful in the aggregate; unified French grape growers came together to force a deal with the economically dominant wine merchants. Their joint political power was institutionalized in power-sharing, state-backed corporatist producer organizations. In contrast, small Italian producers failed to cooperate systematically and aggregate their power. Stronger organization enabled the construction of an institutional comparative advantage and higher prices for regulated French terroir wines. Economic sociologists claim markets are ‘socially embedded’. This article demonstrates markets are ‘politically embedded’: French market dominance results from effective power sharing mechanisms across the supply chain.
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Kiah Smith (2017)
Journal of Consumer Ethics, Vol 1 Issue 2, p. 19-30.
Abstract. Within global food networks, multiple and diverse meanings of social justice, environmental sustainability, livelihoods, fairness and well-being (or ‘ethicality’) exist in parallel to those embedded in ethical sourcing schemes. This paper considers the dilemma facing ethical sourcing when consumer- or retailer-driven ethical values around social justice, environmental sustainability, livelihoods, fairness and well-being (or ‘ethicality’) – differ from the issues that women smallholder farmers may prioritise. Drawing on conventions theory and qualitative research with women French bean farmers in Kenya, the paper describes the ways in which meanings of ‘ethicality’ are highly gendered and context-specific. Findings suggest that women smallholders draw from a wide variety of domestic, civic and green conventions in order to make meaning of the livelihood outcomes that matter most to them within ethical trade networks. Only some of these are compatible with the market and industrial conventions currently underpinning fair and ethical trade.
Keywords: Gender; ethical trade; fair trade; conventions theory; smallholders.
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Lisa Suckert (2018)
Current Sociology, 66(5), pp. 682-703
Abstract. Moralised markets are often referred to as ethical consumption markets. They are supposed to relieve a source of major distress in capitalist societies: the conflict between morality and economy. But under what conditions do these markets grow, and when do they stagnate? Deviating from the dominant focus on external constraints, this article emphasises the intrinsic ambivalence of moralised markets. Being caught between moral and economic exigencies becomes an obstacle for market growth. The article addresses ‘unravelling ambivalence’ on two levels. First, a field-theoretical framework is used to unravel the concept of ambivalence. Inspired by Pierre Bourdieu, the article proposes introducing ambivalence as an analytical category in economic sociology. Second, a historic study based on correspondence analysis depicts the development of the German organic milk market. What distinguishes growth from stagnation is the degree of ambivalence within this market. Only if opposition is mitigated and ambivalence unravels into a more pluralistic field structure does the transition from niche to mass market become viable.
Keywords. Ambivalence, Bourdieu, conventions, economic sociology, field theory, markets, morality, multiple institutional logics, sustainability
Mots clés. Ambivalence, Bourdieu, conventions, logique institutionnelle multiple, marchés, moralité, sociologie économique, théorie des champs, viabilité
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Samuel Deprez (2016)
Netcom, 30-1/2, p. 81-118
Résumé. Longtemps restée discrète, popularisée depuis quelques années avec le succès des drives d’enseignes, la distribution alimentaire connectée s’affirme désormais dans les parcours d’achats des ménages et modifie leurs « univers d’approvisionnement ». Des supermarchés en ligne à la vente de particuliers à particuliers, elle revêt des formes plurielles selon les acteurs qui les initient et les systèmes de valeurs qui les portent. Toutes singulières, elles illustrent chacune la nature des changements portés par le numérique dans ce secteur et constituent à leur niveau une expression de la « convention Internet ». L’exemple des drives fermiers est ici retenu pour proposer une lecture territorialisée de cet e-commerce alimentaire qui prend place dans le paysage commercial, modifie les pratiques d’achats et le rapport aux circuits traditionnels de la distribution alimentaire.
Abstract. Having long been a low key affair but made popular over the last few years with the success of leading retailers’ click and drive facilities, connected grocery retailing is now firmly established in the shopping habits of households and has modified their “supply world”. From online supermarkets to sales between individuals, it has taken on myriad forms according to the actors initiating the value systems that support them. They are all different and each one illustrates the nature of the changes introduced by digital technology in this sector and at their level represent an expression of the “Internet convention”. The example of farm click and drives is used here to put forward a territory-based reading of food e-commerce taking place in the commercial sphere, modifying purchasing practices and the relationship to traditional channels of grocery retailing.
Article en ligne/ Online article
PhD thesis defended, with the permission of the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry of the University of Helsinki, on 15 September 2017, under the supervision of Dr. Leena Lankoski.
Abstract. This doctoral dissertation examines the phenomenon of alternative food networks (AFNs) from the perspective of food system sustainability. AFNs are seen as a promising response to the sustainability issues associated with the conventional food system, but have also attracted criticism. Criticisms include uncertainty over AFNs’ actual sustainability impacts; arguments that many AFNs are hybrid rather than purely alternative; and that their impact on food system sustainability is limited, due to their marginal position. In this dissertation, comprising three original research articles and an introductory section, I explore the above-mentioned criticisms to advance understanding of AFNs’ sustainability. I seek to i) understand what sustainability claims we can make for AFNs based on their characteristics, ii) to develop understanding of AFNs’ hybrid nature and their complex relationship to the conventional food system through empirically examining the negotiation of acceptable practice in AFNs; and iii) understand how this negotiation can be understood to drive wider food system sustainability transitions by shaping norms. The main theoretical framework used is convention theory. This theory examines the deployment of different notions of worth in coordinating economic activity, as actors navigate in different situations, and shape these situations through their negotiation of acceptable practices. I also apply convention theory to the framework of sustainability transitions, to frame the examination of norm-shaping within the niche of AFNs. The empirical focus of this study is an often-overlooked AFN actor, alternative food retailers, involving a qualitative, multiple case study research covering nine cases of alternative food retail in Finland and the UK. My findings suggest that AFNs may potentially contribute to sustainability, but their sustainability should be critically assessed on a caseby-case basis. The findings also suggest a plurality of shared ideals in the domain of AFNs and several areas of tension in AFN practice that AFN actors must navigate. In doing this, the actors may also shape the norms and ideals in the sector. The conceptual examination contributes a clarified overview of AFNs’ potential sustainability impacts and limitations, and provides a practical framework to assess different food networks’ sustainability. The empirical analysis challenges certain underlying assumptions in the previous literature, and contributes a new understanding of AFNs’ hybridity, its causes and consequences, and the challenges involved in adopting sustainable practices. The analysis can help practitioners understand consumer considerations, and opportunities and obstacles to more sustainable practices. It also deepens the understanding of how new norms are negotiated in the sector, and suggests an alternative view of AFNs’ potential to drive change, besides scaling up and gaining a larger share of the food market. It uncovers the deeper ideals that the alternative food retailers promote, and how these are different from or similar to conventional food system norms and ideals. This understanding can also help practitioners in their norm-shaping work. Theoretically, the study contributes a more dynamic application of convention theory to agri-food studies. The use of convention theory contributes a new understanding of the human and cultural aspect of sustainability transitions. AFNs are ultimately both more and less than their promise. They are not automatically sustainable, or always purely alternative, but can challenge the conventional food system. Their indirect impact on the wider food system may be greater than suggested by their small size and reach. AFNs operate in a dialogue between different parties, and the general direction of this dialogue is instrumental in shaping what AFNs might be or become, and the achievement of sustainability in AFNs.
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Agriculture and Human Values. 35(1), pp. 163–179
Abstract. This article explores the role of conventions in the normalization of cocoa production in Ecuadorian Amazonia. Convention theory provides key theoretical tools for understanding coordination among agents. However, conventions must be understood as cultural constructions with a strong Eurocentric background that must be substantially modified in originally non-European contexts. A creative application of convention theory can partially overcome bifurcation among Western and non-Western rationalities. First, it shows that Western values and forms of coordination are heterogeneous, conflictive and opposing. Second, it provides key insight for understanding the transformation of subaltern subjectivities generated from non-Western rationalities that are closely associated with subjugated knowledges. Third, in applying the concept of compromise, it allows one to understand cognitive hybridization and coordination among indigenous and Western agents and thus the complexities of processes of resistance, subversion and empowerment carried by indigenous communities. This article is focused on how cocoa production in Ecuadorian Amazonia serves as an example of the confluence and coordination of indigenous (using the concept of “Good Living” or Sumak Kawsay) and Western conventions. The assertion of Sumak Kawsay is understood as a relevant transformation of Ecuadorian post-colonial relations. It is shown that relevant industrial upgrading processes are justified by, among others, Sumak Kawsay repertoires. Additionally, dialogue on knowledge and compromise among conventions, and especially concerning Sumak Kawsay and the market, have been key facets shaping the development of a differentiated quality strand that has promoted relevant changes in the subaltern positioning of indigenous farmers in the cocoa commodity chain.
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Virginie Amilien & Unni Kjaernes (2017)
British Food Journal, 119(4), p. 952-966
Purpose: This paper is based on three social scientific studies of animal welfare and local food products in Norway, of which two focused on sheep in particular. It addresses the widespread belief that Norwegian sheep farming is “the best” but is confronted with a meat industry that emphasises economic efficiency. A few years after a new Norwegian law on animal welfare acknowledged animals as sentient beings came into force in 2010 (LOVdata, 2009), the purpose of this paper is to better understand ongoing debates on the welfare of sheep by exploring how sheep welfare is understood and regulated in Norway.
Design/methodology/approach: The theoretical framework draws on convention theory, especially referring to the four “possible worlds of production” (Salais/Storper 1993). The authors argue that animal welfare may be analysed in parallel to product quality, focusing on three major perspectives of sheep welfare: animal treatment, product quality, and an abstract conceptualisation in public discourse. The empirical analysis is based on interviews with key players in the sector and central documents.
Findings: Convention theory points to several general difficulties in reaching an agreement on what is “good quality” and welfare. First, the authors find difficulty in how to implement new regulatory conceptualisations with dominant ways of understanding welfare within the industry. Second, the idealised images of sheep welfare of an immaterial possible world dominating public discourse have very little interaction with the real world of farms and abattoirs.
Originality/value: This paper suggests that rather than addressing and handling the potential tension between the legal recognition of animal as sentient being and the economic demands of the industry, key actors keep the potentially conflicting understandings apart in different “worlds of production” (Salais/Storper 1993). Nevertheless, the authors observe that interactions between possible worlds, as well as translation from one possible world to another, not only could be promising but would be fundamental to concretise improvements in the real world.
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Daniel Coq-Huelva, Javier Sanz-Cañada & Florencio Sánchez-Escobar (2017)
Journal of Rural Studies, 55, pp. 112–121
• Local Food Systems are not always homogeneous places in which agents have similar interests and values.
• Conflict is an essential feature of processes of social construction of quality inside Local Food Systems.
• Convention Theory offers a set of key concepts for approaching agents’ coordination and conflict inside Local Food Systems.
• Compromises are essential for understanding social construction and competition between organic and local olive oil farmers.
• Compromises are supported by strong discursive mobilisation, being clashes one of their major distinctive elements.
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Francesca Galli, Francesca Venturi, Fabio Bartolini, Oriana Gava, Angela Zinnai, Sanmartin Chiara, Gianpaolo Andrich & Gianluca Brunori (2017)
International Food and Agribusiness Management Review, 20(4), p. 533-552
Abstract. The concern for the quality of food, its composition and contribution towards nutrition and health is widespread among public and private food system actors. The increasing interest in locally integrated supply chains leads to reconsider the configuration of the food system in relation to sustainability and health outcomes. This article focuses on the relationship between processing practices and nutritional value in the wheat-tobread sector, illustrated by a case study on the Tuscan Bread Protected Designation of Origin (PDO). By adopting a food system perspective, the case study shows how the different actors have mobilized to respond to multiple drivers of change. A mixed research method approach is adopted to illustrate the relationship between processing practices and nutritional value outcomes: practice-based indicators for each step of the chain are complemented with performance-based indicators of the chemical, physical and sensorial profile of Tuscan Bread PDO. Furthermore, the implications on food system governance of a differentiation strategy based on territorial origin and enhanced nutrition are discussed.
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Eva Parga-Dans & Pablo Alonso Gonzales (2017)
In: Geoforum 85 (october), p. 5-8
Abstract. Our review explores the role of quality conventions that have emerged since the ‘quality turn’ in the food sector. By examining how the ‘quality turn’ contributes to transforming the wine sector, it asks whether the labeling systems seek to certify the quality of productive practices (informative function) or are intended to create imaginaries of quality as a differentiated business market strategy (symbolic function). After discussing relevant literature in geography and related fields, this review uses two emblematic examples from the wine sector to argue for the need to move beyond the marketing of quality to deepen the analysis and understanding of quality. This analytic insight questions the viability and usefulness of quality conventions aimed at differentiation, territorial development, with a focus on markets with high added value, and argues for the need to open new lines of research and policy in this sphere.
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