Advertisement

Agriculture and Human Values

, Volume 23, Issue 2, pp 143–162 | Cite as

Victual Vicissitudes: Consumer Deskilling and the (Gendered) Transformation of Food Systems

  • JoAnn JaffeEmail author
  • Michael Gertler
Article

Abstract

A considerable literature addresses worker deskilling in manufacturing and the related loss of control over production processes experienced by farmers and others working in the agri-food industry. Much less attention has been directed at a parallel process of consumer deskilling in the food system, which has been no less important. Consumer deskilling in its various dimensions carries enormous consequences for the restructuring of agro-food systems and for consumer sovereignty, diets, and health. The prevalence of packaged, processed, and industrially transformed foodstuffs is often explained in terms of consumer preference for convenience. A closer look at the social construction of “consumers” reveals that the agro-food industry has waged a double disinformation campaign to manipulate and to re-educate consumers while appearing to respond to consumer demand. Many consumers have lost the knowledge necessary to make discerning decisions about the multiple dimensions of quality, including the contributions a well-chosen diet can make to health, planetary sustainability, and community economic development. They have also lost the skills needed to make use of basic commodities in a manner that allows them to eat a high quality diet while also eating lower on the food chain and on a lower budget. This process has a significant gender dimension, as it is the autonomy of those primarily responsible for purchasing and preparing foodstuffs that has been systematically undermined. Too often, food industry professionals and regulatory agencies have been accessories to this process by misdirecting attention to the less important dimensions of quality.

Keywords

Consumer deskilling Consumerism Food system Gendered relations of consumption McDonaldization North America Provisioning 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Assael, H. 1984Consumer Behavior and Marketing Action2Kent PublishingBoston, MassachusettsGoogle Scholar
  2. Beck, A. 2001“‘Now then – Who said biscuits?’ Black woman cook as fetish in American advertising, 1905–1953”Inness, S.A. eds. Kitchen Culture in America: Popular Representations of Food, Gender, and RaceUniversity of Pennsylvania PressPhiladelphia, PA6994Google Scholar
  3. Bluestone, B. and S. Rose (1997). “Overworked and underemployed: Unraveling an economic enigma.” American Prospect 8: 31. Accessed on May 28, 2004 at www. prospect.org/print/V8/31/bluestone-b.html.Google Scholar
  4. Bowers, D. 2000“Cooking trends echo changing roles of women”Food Review232329Google Scholar
  5. Braverman, H. 1974Labor and Monopoly CapitalMonthly Review PressNew York, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  6. Brewster, E. 1997“A new brand of thinking: Consumer loyalty ain’t what it used to be.”Food Processing58114Google Scholar
  7. Brewster, E 1998“A passion for food safety: Consumers know real sex appeal when they see it”Food Processing5968Google Scholar
  8. Burawoy, M. 1979Manufacturing Consent: Changes in the Labour Process Under Monopoly CapitalismUniversity of Chicago PressChicago, IllinoisGoogle Scholar
  9. Chartoff, M. D. and M. C. Colby (1994). “Agribusiness leads effort to silence activists.” Safe Food News Summer: 16–17.Google Scholar
  10. Cook, I. 1994“New fruits and vanity: Symbolic production in the global food economy”Bonnano, A.Busch, L.Friedland, W.Gouveia, L.Mingone, E. eds. From Columbus to Conagra: The Globalization of Agriculture and FoodUniversity Press of KansasLawrence, Kansas232248Google Scholar
  11. Cook, R. (2004). “Supermarket challenges and opportunities for fresh fruit and vegetable producers and shippers: Lessons from the U.S. experience. Paper presented at the Conference on Supermarkets and Agricultural Development in China – Opportunities and Challenges. May 24, 2004 Shanghai, China. Accessed on July 5, 2004 at www.agmrc.org/markets/info/supermarketchallenges.pdf.Google Scholar
  12. Cooper, A. 2000Bitter Harvest: a Chef’s Perspective on the Hidden Dangers in the Foods We Eat and What You Can Do About ItRoutledgeNew York, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  13. Cutler, B. 1992“From soup to purple dinosaur nuts (food items preferred by children)”American Demographics144849Google Scholar
  14. Diaz, H. P., Stirling, B. 2003“Degradation of farm work on the Canadian prairies.”Diaz, H.Jaffe, J.Stirling, B. eds. Farm Communities at the Crossroads: The Challenge and the ResistanceCPRC PressRegina, Saskatchewan, Canada3154Google Scholar
  15. Dubé, L., Chattopadhyay, A., Letarte, A. 1996“Should advertising appeals match the basis of consumers’ attitudes?”Journal of Advertising Research368289Google Scholar
  16. Duden, B. 1993Disembodying WomenHarvard UniversityCambridge, MassachusettsGoogle Scholar
  17. Ewen, S. 1976Captains of Consciousness: Advertising and the Social Roots of the Consumer CultureMcGraw-HillNew York, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  18. Food Marketing Institute (2001). New Products and Services. Washington DC: Food Marketing Institute. Accessed on May 25, 2001 at www.fmi.org/facts_figs/newproductsandservices. pdf.Google Scholar
  19. Frederick, L., Hawkins, S. T. 1992“A comparison of nutrition knowledge and attitudes, dietary practices, and bone densities of postmenopausal women, female college athletes, and nonathletic college women”Journal of the American Dietetic Association92299306Google Scholar
  20. Gabaccia, D. R. 1998We are What We Eat: Ethnic Food and the Making of AmericansHarvard University PressCambridge, MassachusettsGoogle Scholar
  21. Gabriel, Y., Lang, T. 1995The Unmanageable ConsumerSage PublicationsLondon, UKGoogle Scholar
  22. Gerrior, S. and L. Bente (2001). Nutrient Content of the U.S. Food Supply, 1909–97. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. Home Economics Research Report No. 54.Google Scholar
  23. Gertler, M. E. (2001). Co-operatives and Sustainable Development. Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada: Centre for the Study of Co-operatives.Google Scholar
  24. Gillman, M., Rifas-Shiman, S., Frazier, L., Rockett, H., Camargo, C., Field, A., Berkey, C., Colditz, G. 2000“Family dinner and diet quality among older children and adolescents”Archives of Family Medicine9235240CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Goodman, D., Redclift, M. 1991Refashioning Nature: Food, Ecology, CultureRoutledgeNew York, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  26. Granju, K. A. (1998). What Every Parent Should Know About Commercial Infant Formula. Accessed on May 28, 2001 at http://www.bestfed.com.Google Scholar
  27. Gray, A. 1995“Flexibilisation of labour and the attack on workers’ living standards”Common Sense1812Google Scholar
  28. Greenpeace (2001). Vitamin A: Natural Sources vs. Golden Rice Backgrounder. Accessed on November 15, 2001 at http://www.greenpeace.org/geneng/reports/food/VitaAvs.pdf.Google Scholar
  29. Guthman, J. 2004Agrarian Dreams: The Paradox of Organic Farming in CaliforniaUniversity of California PressBerkeley, CaliforniaGoogle Scholar
  30. Harvey, D. 1989The Condition of PostmodernityBasil BlackwellCambridge, MassachusettsGoogle Scholar
  31. Heffernan, W. D. 2000“Concentration of ownership and control in agriculture”Magdoff, F.Foster, J. B.Buttel, F. H. eds. Hungry for Profit: The Agribusiness Threat to Farmers, Food, and the EnvironmentMonthly Review PressNew York, New York6175Google Scholar
  32. Heffernan, W. D., M. Hendrickson, and R. Gronski (1999). Report to the National Farmers Union: Consolidation in the Food and Agriculture Industry. Washington DC: National Farmers Union.Google Scholar
  33. Hendrickson, M., Heffernan, W. D., Howard, P. H., Heffernan, J. 2001Consolidation in Food Retailing and Dairy: Implications for Farmers and Consumers in a Global Food SystemNational Farmers UnionWashington DCGoogle Scholar
  34. Kander, S. 1947The Settlement Cookbook28The Settlement Cookbook CompanyMilwaukee WisconsinGoogle Scholar
  35. Lang, T. 1999“Food policy for the 21st century: Can it be both radical and reasonable?”Koc, M.MacRae, R.Mougeot, L. J. A.Welsh, J. eds. For Hunger-Proof CitiesInternational Development Research CentreOttawa, Canada216224Google Scholar
  36. Lang, T., Gabriel, Y. 1995“The consumer as citizen”Consumer Policy Review596102Google Scholar
  37. Lash, S., Urry, J. 1987The End of Organised CapitalismPolity PressCambridge, MassachusettsGoogle Scholar
  38. Levenstein, D. 1993Paradox of PlentyOxford University PressNew York, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  39. Lieberman, L. S. 2000“Obesity.”Kiple, K. F.Ornelas, K. C. eds. The Cambridge World History of FoodCambridge University PressCambridge, UK10621077Google Scholar
  40. Lipietz, A. 1997“The post-Fordist world: Labour relations, international hierarchy and global ecology”Review of International Political Economy4141CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Lupton, D. 1996Food, the Body, and the SelfSageLondon, UKGoogle Scholar
  42. Mackenzie, M. 1993“Is the family meal disappearing?”Journal of Gastronomy73637Google Scholar
  43. Magdoff, F., J. B. Foster, and F. H. Buttel (eds.) (2000). “An overview.” In Hungry for Profit: The Agribusiness Threat to Farmers, Food, and the Environment (pp. 7–22). New York, New York: Monthly Review.Google Scholar
  44. Martin, E. 1992The Woman in the BodyBeaconBoston, MassachusettsGoogle Scholar
  45. Martineau, B. 2001“Food fight: The short unhappy life of the Flavr Savr tomato”The Sciences42429Google Scholar
  46. Matthews, M.K., Webber, K., Kim, E., Banoub-Baddour, S., Laryea, M. 1995Infant Feeding Practices in New foundland and LabradorCanadian Journal of Public Health86296300Google Scholar
  47. McFeely, M. D. 2000Can She Bake a Cherry Pie?: American Women and the Kitchen in the Twentieth CenturyUniversity of Massachusetts PressAmherst, MassachusettsGoogle Scholar
  48. Mitchell, A. (1991). “Learning to live with spoiled brats.” Marketing July 4, 1991: 14. Accessed on May 20, 2001 at http://web2.infotrac.galegroup.com/.Google Scholar
  49. Mintz, S. W. 1996Tasting Food, Eating Freedom: Excursions into Eating, Culture and the PastBeacon PressBoston, MassachusettsGoogle Scholar
  50. Myers, S., Manno, J., McDade, K. 1995“Great Lakes human health effects research in Canada and the United States: An overview of priorities and issues”Great Lakes Research Review11323Google Scholar
  51. National Provisioner (1999). “Hamburger consumption takes a hit, but a reversal of fortune is in the offing,” National Provisioner. Cited in Schlosser (2001).Google Scholar
  52. Neumark-Sztainer, D. 2003“Family meal patterns: Associations with sociodemographic characteristics and improved dietary intake among adolescents”Journal of the American Dietetic Association103317322CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Noble, D. 1984Forces of Production: A Social History of Industrial AutomationAlfred A. KnopfNew York, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  54. Parkin, K. 2001“Campbell’s soup and the long shelf life of traditional gender roles”Inness, S. A. eds. Kitchen Culture in America: Popular Representations of Food, Gender and RaceUniversity of Pennsylvania PressPhiladelphia, PA5168Google Scholar
  55. Peiss, K. L. (1998). “American women and the making of modern consumer culture.” The Journal for MultiMedia History 1(1). Accessed on May 21, 2001 at http://www. albany.edu/jmmh/vol1no1/peiss.html.Google Scholar
  56. Polanyi, K. 1944The Great TransformationBeaconBoston, MassachusettsGoogle Scholar
  57. Powell, D., Leiss, W. 1997Mad Cows and Mothers MilkMcGill-Queen’s University PressMontreal, CanadaGoogle Scholar
  58. Prepared Foods1998“Teen market: Snackers and swayers”Prepared Foods16776Google Scholar
  59. Putnam, J. 2000“Major trends in U. S. food supply, 1909–1999”Food Review23815Google Scholar
  60. Raven H., T. Lang, with C. Dumonteil (1995). “Off our Trolleys? Food Retailing and the Hypermarket Economy. London, UK: Institute for Public Policy Research.Google Scholar
  61. Reiter, E. 1991Making Fast FoodMcGill-Queens’s University PressMontreal CanadaGoogle Scholar
  62. Ritzer, G. (1998). “McJobs: McDonaldization and its relationship to the labor process.” In The McDonaldization Thesis: Explorations and Extensions (pp. 59–70). London, UK: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  63. Ritzer, G. 1993The McDonaldization of Society: An Investigation into the Changing Character of Contemporary Social LifePine Forge PressNewbury Park, CaliforniaGoogle Scholar
  64. Roos, E., Lahelma, E., Virtanen, M., Prattala, R., Pietinen, P. 1998“Gender, socioeconomic status and family status as determinants of food behaviour”Social Science and Medicine4615191529CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Roth, D. 2000“America’s fascination with nutrition”Food Review233237Google Scholar
  66. Ruowei, L., Zhao, Z., Mokdad, A., Barker, L., Grummer-Strawn, L. 2003“Prevalence of breastfeeding in the United States: The 2001 National Immunization Survey”Pediatrics11111981201Google Scholar
  67. Sanchez, A. (2000). “Diet and its relation to early atherosclerosis in teenagers.” Paper presented on March 13, 2000 at the American College of Cardiology 49th Annual Scientific Session. Anaheim, California: American College of Cardiology .Google Scholar
  68. Schlosser, E. 2001Fast Food NationHoughton MifflinNew York, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  69. Schmookler, A. B. 1993The Illusion of Choice: How the Market Economy Shapes Our DestinyState University of New York PressAlbany, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  70. Shapiro, L. (1986). Perfection Salad. New York, New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.Google Scholar
  71. Shell, E. R. 2001“New World Syndrome”The Atlantic2865053Google Scholar
  72. Shim, Y., Variam, J., Blaylock, J. 2000“Many Americans are falsely optimistic about their diets”Food Review234450Google Scholar
  73. Simontacchi, C. 2000The Crazy Makers: How the Food Industry is Destroying Our Brains and Harming Our ChildrenTarcher/PutnamNew York, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  74. Store Equipment.com. (2005). Technobuilt CarryAll Kiddie Carts. Accessed on February 15, 2005 at www.storeequipment.com/browse/man/technibiltkc.shtml.Google Scholar
  75. Strinati, D. 1995An Introduction to Theories of Popular CultureRoutledgeLondon UKGoogle Scholar
  76. Taylor, F. W. 1911The Principles of Scientific ManagementHarper and BrothersNew YorkGoogle Scholar
  77. Thompson, S. 2001“Campbell fires up budget for lines other than soup; Prego, Pace and Franco-American to get more consumer ad support”Advertising Age724Google Scholar
  78. Tufts University (2001). “Quicker approval of health claims helps marketers, not consumers.” Tufts University Health and Nutrition Letter March.Google Scholar
  79. USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) (2001). “Food consumption and spending.” Family Economic News. Accessed on May 21, 2001 at http://www.reeusda.gov/ecs/news/maynews.htm.Google Scholar
  80. USDA (2000). “Potatoes: U.S. per capita utilization by category, 1991–1999.” Washington DC: Economic Research Service. Cited in Schlosser (2001).Google Scholar
  81. USGPO (United States Government Printing Office)1999“What you don’t know can hurt you (consumers ignore food recalls)”FDA Consumer336Google Scholar
  82. Van Esterik, P. 1997“The politics of breastfeeding: An advocacy perspective”Counihan, C.Esterick, P. eds. Food and Culture: A ReaderRoutledgeNew York, New York370383Google Scholar
  83. Visser, M. 1986Much Depends on DinnerMcClelland and StewartToronto, CanadaGoogle Scholar
  84. WHO (World Health Organization)2003Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child FeedingWorld Health OrganizationGeneva, SwitzerlandGoogle Scholar
  85. Willis S. (1991). A Primer for Everyday Life. New York, New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  86. Winson, A. 1993The Intimate Commodity: Food and the Development of the Agro-Industrial Complex in CanadaGaramond PressToronto, CanadaGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology and Social StudiesUniversity of ReginaReginaCanada
  2. 2.Department of SociologyUniversity of SaskatchewanSaskatoonCanada

Personalised recommendations