The Political Economy of Diet, Health and Food Policy

The Political Economy of Diet, Health and Food Policy

The Political Economy of Diet, Health and Food Policy

The Political Economy of Diet, Health and Food Policy

Synopsis

Benn Fine presents a critical exposition of food systems theory and analyses the existing approaches to food consumption. Topics covered include: resolving the diet paradox; the impact of the EU; the lack of policy in the UK.

Excerpt

Just as the study of consumption has increasingly come to the fore analytically over the past two decades, so has the study of food consumption. Despite frequent claims of neglect, it has been far from starved. The references in the survey of Mennell et al. (1992) run to well over 500 items. To this must be added the well-established disciplines around agrarian studies, marketing, psychology and, at the immediate policy level, health and nutrition. Economists and historians have long been concerned with food supply and demand. There is no shortage of academic literature and, within the more popular media, there is no end to discussion of dieting and cooking. A number of developments, some theoretical and some empirical, have pushed food studies into even greater prominence. Consumption in general has been elevated within the confines of postmodernism to the forefront of contemporary social theory. Concern with the environment, the quality of food and the diseases of affluence have been important in promoting food as an object both of popular concern and, increasingly, of scholarship.

The purpose of this chapter is to take one pace back from the literature, to investigate what might give food studies one or more unifying themes. This is not motivated as an empirical exercise in the sociology of knowledge—yielding a frequency distribution of explanatory variables across the literature. Rather the purpose is to propose that certain themes are essential if food studies is to constitute an academic field that is coherent and integral but also distinctive from other areas, especially if food is to be set apart from other items of consumption.

This is an appropriate task and one that is more neglected than the study of food itself. For, often these studies have merely served . . .

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