Quietly does it: questioning assumptions about class, sustainability and consumption

Smith, Joe; Kostelecký, Tomáš and Jehlicka, Petr (2015). Quietly does it: questioning assumptions about class, sustainability and consumption. Geoforum, 67 pp. 223–232.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2015.03.017

Abstract

This paper questions assumptions about the relationship between class formation, sustainability and patterns of consumption. The empirical elements of the research are based upon qualitative and quantitative time-series research into food self-provisioning and 'quiet sustainability' in post socialist Central and Eastern Europe (Poland and the Czech Republic). It considers sustainable practices that are often considered to be taking place 'in the wrong place and the wrong time', i.e. they appear anomalous in terms of western expectations of patterns of development. We offer evidence of comparatively very high levels of food self-provisioning and sharing of the resulting produce amongst middle class Poles and Czechs. This evidence questions widely held assumptions about class, development and consumption. This evidence may be of significance for consideration of a much wider set of household practices/behaviours that are associated with the middle classes. Our explorations of the reasons for food self-provisioning throw new light on discussions of ethical consumption: ethics is lightly worn, even unacknowledged, amongst practitioners, but the commitments are widespread and robust. Our empirical findings, and the theoretical arguments we seek to test on the basis of them, are of particular significance in the context of rapid processes of rural and urban change in emerging economies.

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