|Current research||I have recently completed an ESRC project on The transition to a sustainable bio-economy: innovation and expectations. This project, which ran from October 2007 to 2010, compared different trajectories of innovation in Brazil, Europe and the USA, using the IEP approach. Faced by global climate change, depleting petro-chemical resources and energy insecurity, a major industrial transformation in energy and materials is at an early stage of transition. As the historically integrated technology platform becomes fractured and eroded, a diversity of competing innovation directions is opening up, strongly influenced by future expectations. With the revolution in biological sciences, emergent technologies for refining and producing both bio-energy and novel bio-materials are already destined to transform the socio-economic landscape. This transformation poses challenges to the governance of the economy unique in the history of industrial societies.
Following this research, I am now engaged in developing an ambitious research programme on the global competition for land, impacts of land use on global climate change, and the increasing demands for 'feeding the nine billion', energy and materials provision as economies adapt to the declining and facturing petro-chemical, high cargon economy. The University is supporting preliminary research under its Global Challenges initiative.
I am also coordinating the Essex contribution to the Sustainable Practices Research Group, led by the University of Manchester, which is investigating consumption practices and their transformation to meet the challenge of global climate change. In Essex, we have a particular focus on the practices of water consumption, including an international comparative project on bottled water
I am continuing to develop the IEP approach to an understanding of the development of rights over resources, including individual property rights, intellectual property rights, pension rights, and social or collective rights to public goods.
The over-arching theme integrating my work is an understanding of capitalist institutional variation and evolution as multi-modal, embracing market and non-market dynamics.
Publications - Books
Described as ‘a wonderful study of contemporary capitalism as mirrored through the tomato’ (Richard Swedberg), this book used the incredible history of the tomato from 1860 to the present to research and analyse major transformations in the organisation of the economy. Pioneering the growth of mass production for mass consumption, the rise of supermarkets, confrontations over genetic modification, the ‘fabrication of nature’ by innovation, all feature as significant episodes in this narrative. The book represents the first development of the ‘instituted economic process’ approach.
Following a series of scandals and crises, especially BSE and GM, the issue of trust in food became a major issue in Europe. Based on an EU funded research project comparing Italy, Portugal, Britain, Norway and Denmark, we argue that huge and surprising variations in levels of trust – with the UK consumers showing the highest trust – can only be understood by an institutional and societal analysis. ‘Triangular affairs of trust’ between consumers, market provisioners, and state regulators provide the key to understanding societal variation.
The ‘great divide’ between public and private knowledge in capitalism is an unstable frontier at the core of contemporary economic transformations. Based on research in the USA, Europe and Brazil into the cutting-edge of biological science and technology, this book presents a novel framework for understanding this historically shifting fault-line.
Over the last quarter century, major controversies have accompanied the dramatic developments in biological science and technology. Would private marketable knowledge dominate over the new public domain or vice versa? Surprisingly, the dynamism and expansion of the public domain, and new forms of differentiation and interdependence between public and private economies of knowledge, now characterise the landscape. This book represents a further development of the IEP analytical framework for understanding the shifting ‘great divide’ in capitalist economies of knowledge.
‘This superb book examines what determines whether a body of knowledge is public or private. …What the authors have to say is important and fascinating, and makes for a great read.’ Richard R. Nelson.
The work of Karl Polanyi has gained in influence in recent years to become a point of reference to a wide range of leading authors in the fields of economics, politics, sociology, and social policy. This edited volume is a reflection on Polanyi’s contribution combined with new strands of work, both theoretical and empirical, inspired by Polanyi’s insights. It gathers together key contributions from the first ever workshop on the work of Karl Polanyi held in the United Kingdom. This was opened by Kari Polanyi-Levitt, who also has written the Introductory Foreword.
Drawing on comparisons between his turbulent times and our own in order to understand their contemporary relevance, Polanyi’s work is situated in the intellectual and political contexts of his life in Europe and the USA. Several of the contributions develop Polanyian ideas in relation to contemporary capitalism. In a critical spirit, other contributions in the volume substantially transform his concept ‘instituted economic process’ in considering a broad range of contemporary socio-economic change: markets for mobile telephony, call centre operations, and European labour markets.
Downloadable introductory chapter (PDF document)
Qualities of Food. Manchester University Press. (2004). Edited by Mark Harvey, Andrew McMeekin and Alan Warde
In this book, the complexity and the significance of the foods we eat are analysed from a variety of perspectives, by sociologists, economists, geographers and anthropologists. Chapters address a number of intriguing questions: how do people make judgments about taste? How do such judgments come to be shared by groups of people? What social and organisational processes result in foods being certified as of decent or proper quality? How has dissatisfaction with the food system been expressed? What alternatives are thought to be possible? The multi-disciplinary analysis of this book explores many different answers to such questions. The first part of the book focuses on theoretical and conceptual issues, the second part considers processes of formal and informal regulation, while the third part examines social and political responses to industrialised food production and mass consumption. Qualities of food will be of interest to researchers and students in all the social science disciplines that are concerned with food, whether marketing, sociology, cultural studies, anthropology, human nutrition or economics.