Navigating the tensions and agreements in alternative food and sustainability: a convention theoretical perspective on alternative food retail

Navigating the tensions and agreements in alternative food and sustainability: a convention... Concerns about the unsustainability of the conventional food system have promoted interest in alternative food networks (AFNs), which are typically conceptualized through their differences from conventional food networks. Real-life AFNs, however, tend to show some similarities to the conventional food system. This hybridity has caused some criticism, but also, increasingly, calls for a more open examination of AFNs. Indeed, AFNs can be seen as relational to and shaped by the prevailing food system, for example the expectations the conventional system has promoted among consumers. In this paper, through a multiple case study of nine alternative food retailers, we examine the negotiation of acceptable practice in AFNs and the challenges encountered in trying to do things alternatively. We employ convention theory, which encourages a view of action as socially negotiated and situational, and acknowledges plural legitimate notions of worth in guiding and justifying actions. Our findings show a plurality of ideals in the domain of AFNs and a complex navigation between the retailers’ own expressed ideals and considerations and perceived consumer expectations. The retailers’ justification of actions highlights several areas of tension in AFN practice, helping also to understand the challenges in adopting sustainable practices. While responding to consumer expectations sometimes involved adopting more conventional practices, the retailers also challenged consumers on certain issues. Our findings also show how even market-oriented AFNs may take radically alternative courses of action. The study supports the broader argument for examining all food networks in an open way, focusing on actual sustainability outcomes. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Agriculture and Human Values Springer Journals

Navigating the tensions and agreements in alternative food and sustainability: a convention theoretical perspective on alternative food retail

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Publisher
Springer Netherlands
Copyright
Copyright © 2016 by Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht
Subject
Philosophy; Ethics; Agricultural Economics; Veterinary Medicine/Veterinary Science; History, general; Evolutionary Biology
ISSN
0889-048X
eISSN
1572-8366
D.O.I.
10.1007/s10460-016-9741-0
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Concerns about the unsustainability of the conventional food system have promoted interest in alternative food networks (AFNs), which are typically conceptualized through their differences from conventional food networks. Real-life AFNs, however, tend to show some similarities to the conventional food system. This hybridity has caused some criticism, but also, increasingly, calls for a more open examination of AFNs. Indeed, AFNs can be seen as relational to and shaped by the prevailing food system, for example the expectations the conventional system has promoted among consumers. In this paper, through a multiple case study of nine alternative food retailers, we examine the negotiation of acceptable practice in AFNs and the challenges encountered in trying to do things alternatively. We employ convention theory, which encourages a view of action as socially negotiated and situational, and acknowledges plural legitimate notions of worth in guiding and justifying actions. Our findings show a plurality of ideals in the domain of AFNs and a complex navigation between the retailers’ own expressed ideals and considerations and perceived consumer expectations. The retailers’ justification of actions highlights several areas of tension in AFN practice, helping also to understand the challenges in adopting sustainable practices. While responding to consumer expectations sometimes involved adopting more conventional practices, the retailers also challenged consumers on certain issues. Our findings also show how even market-oriented AFNs may take radically alternative courses of action. The study supports the broader argument for examining all food networks in an open way, focusing on actual sustainability outcomes.

Journal

Agriculture and Human ValuesSpringer Journals

Published: Oct 17, 2016

References

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