Ulrich Beck's 'risk society' thesis and representations of food and eating in the British general interest women's magazine sector 1979-2003
Beck asserts that since the 1950s, broad social transformations have radically altered collective relations. According to Beck, these changes have rendered conventional materialist analyses no longer appropriate to describe the new times we are living in. Beck links radical restructuring of organisational forms with the reorientation of cultural experience and modern selfhood as we move from ‘class’ to ‘risk’ positions (Beck, 1992: Beck and Beck-Gernsheim, 2003). This thesis employs a creative operationalisation of the key dimensions of Beck’s predictions, allowing them to be tested as hypotheses using data from the women’s magazine sector. Beck’s idea that cultural organisational practice is coming under increasing pressure to reorganise and encompass new principles of social orientation is critically evaluated. The magazine titles selected for analysis represent the different socioeconomic, age and family responsibility status of this sector’s target audience. A longitudinal sample of the representation of food and eating is subject to a textual analysis to catalogue the historical development of these processes. In addition, interviews with editorial staff examine the underlying production principles of mediated selection and framing practice. Empirical evidence is generated to assess whether changing institutional practice is involved in society’s move from one set of social arrangements to another. This thesis essentially evaluates Beck’s assertion that the forces transforming organisational practice are rooted in an innovative institutional drive to democratise. The findings suggest that Beck’s explanation is insufficient and that classical materialist and market-driven accounts of institutional policy and practice remain appropriate.