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Well-being in Community Food Organisations: Responding to alienation in the food system

Watson, David (2017) Well-being in Community Food Organisations: Responding to alienation in the food system. PhD thesis, University of Essex.

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Community food organisations are part of a growing interest in local and alternative forms of food, which have widely been understood as a response to the failings of the dominant food system. Despite significant academic interest, few studies have sought to understand these alternatives from the perspective of well-being, although they are grounded in claims for a better food system. In this thesis I address this gap. In order to do so I draw on Marx’s concept of alienation as the basis for understanding how well-being is constituted in four community food organisations in the East of England. In using a Marxist approach to well-being I seek to overcome the limitations of narrow, individualised conceptions of well-being that have predominated a resurgent discourse around well-being. Renewed interest in well-being and alternative food systems can be seen as reactions to the dominant logic of capital, which has prioritised economic growth and profit at the expense of human and planetary well-being. However, these potentially critical discourses have proved vulnerable to re-absorption by capital. I use Marx’s concept of alienation to bring together critique of capitalism with an understanding of community food organisations as alternative spaces of production, which enhance well-being. Both classical and recent Marxian approaches have tended to emphasize critique, with little attention to the subjective experience of capitalism or alternatives to it. Drawing on alienation to inform a Marxian approach to well-being I unite structural critique with subjective experience. I use ethnographic and qualitative methods to document participation in community food organisations as an alternative, de-alienated experience. The data generated points to the important role these spaces can play in supporting well-being. It underlines how they facilitate social interaction, an active relationship with nature, and provide an opportunity for participants to realise a sense of agency and engage in meaningful work.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General)
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Divisions: Faculty of Social Sciences > Essex Business School > Centre for Work, Organisation and Society
Depositing User: David Watson
Date Deposited: 24 Feb 2017 14:36
Last Modified: 24 Feb 2017 14:36

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