On the new social relations around and beyond food: analysing consumers’ role and action in Gruppi di Acquisto Solidale (Solidarity Purchasing Groups)
This article aims at analysing the features and the dynamics of those alternative agri-food networks in which consumers act as initiators. Drawing on a survey of ongoing initiatives at national level and on evidence from empirical fieldwork in a specific territorial context showing a variegated and dynamic reality at this regard (Tuscany), the article analyses consumers’ evolving attitudes and behaviour, around and even beyond food, unfolding during their involvement in these initiatives. In particular, it focuses on the experience of the solidarity-based purchasing groups, consumers’ organisations promoted by groups of citizens aiming at getting control of the food they consume. Using an actor–network perspective, the article analyses how purchasing and consumption routines change when consumers join these initiatives. The article also discusss the potential of these initiatives as drivers of change along with the following questions: to what extent do these initiatives challenge dominant food practices and system governance? On what basis are these initiatives sustainable and are replicable in different contexts? How can they foster other forms of civic engagement? In this regard, the article tests a transition management approach, considering solidarity-based purchasing groups as socio-technical niches within broader socio-technical regimes in a macro landscape characterised by the glo- balisation of the food system. In particular, it analyses the critical points where niches enter in conflict with existing socio-technical regimes, and the way in which these groups act to remove legal, technological and cultural barriers to their development.
© 2011 The Authors. Sociologia Ruralis © 2011 European Society for Rural Sociology.