From the Qualities of Products to the Qualities of Relations

Value Conventions in the Solidarity Economy in Sicily

  • Mihai Varga
Keywords: alternative food networks, solidarity economy, value conventions, organic certification, citrus, Sicily


This article explores the “quality battlefield” in the food economy – the dispute over value conventions between mainstream business actors and alternative food networks. It shows how actors in one particular alternative network – the solidarity economy – shift such notions from product qualities to the qualities of relations in production. Opposing the standardized criteria characterizing private certification schemes and organic certification, they struggle to establish the value of their products by creating and circulating verifiable stories proving their involvement in the solidarity economy. These stories further emphasize the distance to standard business motivations, for instance by accentuating the cooperative rather than competitive relations with other producers. The article illustrates the features and tensions of value conventions in alternative food networks by contrasting actors in mainstream agriculture with an expanding organization of agricultural producers adhering to solidarity economy and operating in the grocery sector in Sicily, Italy.

How to Cite
Varga, Mihai. 2019. “From the Qualities of Products to the Qualities of Relations”. Valuation Studies 6 (1), 63-86.