IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this article

Reflexivity and the Whole Foods Market consumer: the lived experience of shopping for change

Listed author(s):
  • Josée Johnston


  • Michelle Szabo
Registered author(s):

    There has been widespread academic and popular debate about the transformative potential of consumption choices, particularly food shopping. While popular food media is optimistic about “shopping for change,” food scholars are more critical, drawing attention to fetishist approaches to “local” or “organic,” and suggesting the need for reflexive engagement with food politics. We argue that reflexivity is central to understanding the potential and limitations of consumer-focused food politics, but argue that this concept is often relatively unspecified. The first objective of this paper is to operationalize reflexivity and advance understanding of reflexivity as an important tool for understanding the lived experience of food shopping. Our second objective is to explore the range of reflexivity observed in a mainstream “shopping for change” market sector. To do this, we draw from in-depth interviews with shoppers at Whole Foods Market (WFM)—a retail venue with the stated goal of making consumers “feel good about where [they] shop.” This group is chosen because of our interest in investigating the reflexivity of consumer engagement with the corporatized arm of ethical consumption—a realm of concern to food scholars as alternative agricultural initiatives are absorbed (both materially and symbolically) into corporate institutions. Our analysis suggests that shopping at venues like WFM is primarily motivated by traditional consumer pleasures, even for politicized consumers, a finding that poses serious limitations for a consumer-regulated food system. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

    Article provided by Springer & The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS) in its journal Agriculture and Human Values.

    Volume (Year): 28 (2011)
    Issue (Month): 3 (September)
    Pages: 303-319

    in new window

    Handle: RePEc:spr:agrhuv:v:28:y:2011:i:3:p:303-319
    DOI: 10.1007/s10460-010-9283-9
    Contact details of provider: Web page:

    Web page:

    Order Information: Web:

    References listed on IDEAS
    Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

    in new window

    1. Julie Guthman, 2007. "Commentary on teaching food: Why I am fed up with Michael Pollan et al," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 24(2), pages 261-264, June.
    2. Stewart Lockie, 2009. "Responsibility and agency within alternative food networks: assembling the “citizen consumer”," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 26(3), pages 193-201, September.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:spr:agrhuv:v:28:y:2011:i:3:p:303-319. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Sonal Shukla)

    or (Rebekah McClure)

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.