Consumer Culture and Society offers an introduction to the study of consumerism and mass consumption from a sociological perspective. It examines what we buy, how and where we consume, the meanings attached to the things we purchase, and the social forces that enable and constrain consumer behavior. Opening chapters provide a theoretical overview and history of consumer society and featured case studies look at mass consumption in familiar contexts, such as tourism, food, and higher education. The book explores ethical and political concerns, including consumer activism, indebtedness, alternative forms of consumption, and dilemmas surrounding the globalization of consumer culture.
Chapter 5: Food
While seemingly ordinary and part of our daily routines, food occupies a unique position in the realm of consumption. Clearly, we all need to consume food to survive; however, our choice of what food to consume, when to consume it, and where to consume it is riddled with political, cultural, and social implications. The social significance of food can be understood from a structuralist or materialist perspective (Wood 1995). Structuralists, such as Roland Barthes, Mary Douglas, and Claude Levi-Strauss, posit that the symbolic meaning of food is produced from relational differences. Food, according to structuralists, is like a language with its own grammar or code. For example, Levi-Strauss (1964) argued that food could be understood in general terms of binary oppositions, ...