Warde, A. (2014) After taste: culture, consumption and theories of practice, Journal of Consumer Culture, 14(3), pp.279-303.


Multi-disciplinary studies of consumption have proliferated in the last two decades. Heavily influenced by notions of ‘the consumer’ and tenets of ‘the cultural turn’, explanations have relied preponderantly upon models of voluntary action contextualised by webs of cultural meanings which constitute symbolic resources for individual choice. Arguably, the cultural turn has run its course and is beginning to unwind, a consequence of internal inconsistencies, misplaced emphases and the cycle of generational succession in theory development in the social sciences. Theories of practice provide a competing alternative approach which contests the colonisation of consumption by models of individual choice and cultural expressivism. To that end, this article explores the use of theories of practice as a lens to magnify aspects of common social processes which generate observable patterns of consumption. It is suggested that theories of practice might provide a general analytic framework for understanding consumption, one whose particular emphases capture important and relevant aspects overlooked by previously dominant approaches to consumption as culture. This article reviews reasons for the emergence of theories of practice and isolates some of their distinctive emphases. Strengths and weaknesses of the theory of practice as an approach to consumption are discussed.

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