Food Community Networks as Leverage for Social Embeddedness
Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics October 2013
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Social embeddedness, defined as the interaction of economic activities and social behavior, is used in this study as a conceptual tool to describe the growing phenomenon of food community networks (FCNs). The aim in this paper was to map the system of relations which the FCNs develop both inside and outside the network and, from the number of relations, it was inferred the influence of each FCN upon the formation of new socially embedded economic realities. A particular form of FCN was taken under consideration: solidarity purchase groups (SPGs). Performed with the aid of social network analysis on a sample of SPGs in Sicily (a region in southern Italy), the study allowed us to identify a relational (internal) social embeddedness, in which groups of consumers and farmers are directly influenced by reciprocal interactions, giving rise to more or less numerous links of reciprocity and trust depending on the number of interactions. It was also identified a structural (external) social embeddedness, generated by the nature of relations that the SPGs undertake with the various social actors. From the results of our analysis it emerges that SPGs lie at the intersection of many social realities, influencing them and in turn being influenced by such realities. We highlight the major role played by consumer and environmental associations in affecting the phenomenon of social embeddedness.