Globalisation and the effects of variety: a comparison of Britain and France
School of Social Sciences University of Manchester Manchester, UK
This paper critically evaluates claims that the effect of globalization is to produce convergence in consumption patterns by examining change in Britain and France since the 1970s. After some reflection on what it might mean for globalization to generate convergence, it explores evidence about the similarities and differences in trajectory of some central and visible features of food habits in the two countries. Attention will be paid to the amount of time spent eating, meal patterns and formats, habits of eating out and their relation to gastronomy, the incorporation of foreign cuisines and the role of the state. Evidence will be drawn from the results of some recent research projects. These include a comparative analysis of time use and household expenditure, and some archival research on cultural norms surrounding eating both at home and away from home. The analysis emphasizes the complexity of contemporary change, but argues that in almost no respects is there any divergence in patterns between Britain and France. This does not necessarily imply that globalization is at work, but it does provide a foil to many recent accounts which focus on differentiation within and between countries.