International Journal of Sociology of Agriculture and Food

Mimetic Quality: Consumer Quality Conventions and Strategic Mimicry in Food Distribution

International Journal of Sociology of Agriculture and Food

Volume 24, issue 2 (2018), pages 253–273

Authors: Filippo Barbera, Joselle Dagnes and Roberto Di Monaco
Affiliation: Department of Cultures, Politics and Society, University of Torino, Torino, Italy

ISSN: 0798-1759


Quality is a key dimension of markets and competition in advanced capitalist societies. While political economy recognizes the role quality plays for consumers’ purchasing strategies, it is less attentive to quality as a contested field where symbolic struggles and strategic manoeuvring take place. We argue that the quality-based strategies of hybrid organizations in food distribution represent a combination of different worlds of quality and judgment devices. This combination defines a camouflage strategy through which conventional food distribution chains such as high-end supermarkets conquer specific zones of the quality space. We thus maintain that the quality strategies of these organizations are explicitly boundary-spanning. To be successful, hybrid organizations need to cover both new and traditional quality conventions, overcoming divisions among different worlds while maintaining a coherent profile. This effort requires a strategy that is able to leverage situation-specific cultural meanings quite independently from individual-level attributes.

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