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This chapter examines what people buy and eat, and how that is governed by the availability, affordability and acceptability of foodstuffs. It describes how tastes cluster, and how clustering varies with income, education, age and gender. Thus different sections of the population have greater or lesser access to diverse and nutritious foods. Attention is paid to food poverty and the spread of food banks. It charts the availability of different foodstuffs arising from global trade which has introduced new ingredients to fuel greater diversity. The range of products in circulation came to be determined primarily by a small number of supermarket chains in the later 20th century, at the expense of specialist outlets. The chapter ends with an extended critical appraisal (practical and theoretical) of the effects of the commodification of food supply. It discusses alternative modes of supply beyond retail markets, including institutional catering, domestic hospitality and freeganism.

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This chapter assesses the contribution of eating to the delivery of pleasure and the arousal of anxiety. It is argued that on aggregate the British population experiences both greater pleasure and greater anxiety than before. Evidence shows that dining out, especially at the homes of other people, is reliably very enjoyable. Eating at home is also for the most part both pleasurable and satisfying. More popular and scientific attention is devoted to anxiety and its causes, the forms of which have evolved from absolute and relative shortages of food, through nutritional quality and the prevention of illness, to ethical concern about production and consumption. Typical ways of dealing with anxiety are discussed, including recourse to habit and the adoption of formal dietary regimes. Other contemporary concerns about obesity, meat eating and environmental sustainability are addressed.

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The Great Decline is an ambitious work offering a wholly fresh take on the multiple crises we face, both individually and collectively, in the 21st century. The central argument is that, after a period of qualified social progress in the mid-20th century, recent decades have resurrected social and economic arrangements that are toxic in terms of our fundamental needs, undermining the social and political stability of our societies as well as our individual mental and physical health in ways that have been poorly understood and which have now reached a crisis point. Across numerous established democracies, including the UK and the US, the neoliberal consensus principally advanced in the 1980s continues to tear apart the social fabric and destroy countless individual lives amid a growing climate of fear, anger and uncertainty. Amongst a range of consequences, we have witnessed the rise of populist politicians exploiting and further sowing social distress and division, while the ensuing polarization and undermining of established democracies has left us ill-equipped to deal with the huge challenges being presented by climate breakdown and rapid advances in digital technologies. While addressing these troubles of the present, this is also approached from a broad historical and to an extent evolutionary context advancing an original biosocial perspective, the social map, drawing on social science, political economy, neuroscience and epigenetics to present a radical reframing of where we are, how we understand our relationship to the social, economic and political environment, and how we relate to each other.

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This chapter considers the nature, origins and consequences of Britain’s early ‘nutrition transition’ and the emergence of its urban-industrial diet. It notes the importance of industrialisation, imperialism and war in the shaping of the 20th-century diet. It reviews class differences in everyday eating from the late 19th to mid-20th centuries. Post-war reconstruction after 1945 reduced class inequalities and the British population shared a relatively homogeneous diet for a couple of decades. Everyday eating underwent modification from the 1960s with the introduction of foreign food items, in shops and especially through commercial catering. Controversies over the nature and degrees of continuity and change are discussed, both substantively and methodologically. The various elements of the practice of eating are outlined, distinguishing arrangements for meals, acquisition of foodstuffs, cooking and taste. The chapter concludes with a consideration of social trends, cultural processes and institutional development.

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This chapter considers the potential impact of climate change and environmental degradation on the economy and society, as well as how this is perceived by the public. A key argument here rests on the perceived incompatibility between the current global neoliberal economic growth model and environmental sustainability. Of particular interest is the growing gulf between those preoccupied by and active on environmental issues, and the large constituencies who appear to either deny that there is an issue or that it is particularly relevant to their everyday lives. Questions on the influence of the fossil fuel industry, neoliberal politicians, and the wide range of commercial and financial interests that have employed a range of strategies to forestall climate action, putting profit before people and the planet, are addressed. This includes a discussion of the way in which the neoliberal right has established climate concerns as a wedge issue in the so-called ‘culture wars’. Finally, there is a focus on the broader question as to how we might respond to substantial shifts in climatic conditions over the longer term, including potential echoes of pre-Holocene patterns of forced migration in a world where rising nationalism and anti-immigration sentiment is a growing phenomenon.

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This chapter brings together all the main arguments and findings discussed throughout the key chapters, highlighting the key constituents and the nature of the ‘belonging-assemblage’ of unaccompanied young people living under the constraints of the UK asylum and immigration structures. Reiterating the key findings and arguments of previous chapters, it emphasizes the main argument of the book, which is that unaccompanied migrants’ belonging is also understood as an ‘assemblage’, taking place in-between and in the middle and is always in the making; therefore, it is nomadic and rhizomatic in its nature and exists in its potentiality and actuality.

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The concluding chapter pulls together the threads that run throughout the book, highlighting the multiple problems that have emerged from current socioeconomic arrangements, while addressing where we might go next, particularly given ever more evident climate breakdown and the potentially epochal changes and challenges posed by AI. On the one hand, we will likely be influenced to press on with business as usual as we deal with the latter, courting a deepening of our current troubles and a potentially more oppressive response from elites defending the status quo and seeking further advantage. Alternatively, we have the option of reining in our overuse of resources that threatens the planet while harnessing technological change to reduce the burden of overwork and share its benefits more evenly and cooperatively. Reduced working time, greater freedom, revived communities and real relationships and, critically, a lessening of the insecurities, injustices, pressures and demands that pervade our societies is possible. Moreover, as both history and current experience indicate, the ramifications of inaction in this regard go much further than the grassroots level, given that fractious peoples tend to turn to autocratic leaders offering hollow nationalistic and bellicose visions of national renewal that, in turn, may threaten to undermine peaceful international relations. Despite these being evident the numerous dilemmas that currently confront us, the chapter concludes on a qualified hopeful note. This reflects the view that crisis points are often turning points and that there is clearly a measured optimism and desire for something better among the young, a window at least before the pessimism, angst and anger that is inherent in our current way of life intrudes.

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From the mid-19th century, consumer culture emerged as a major feature of contemporary market societies, shaping modern peoples’ identities, relationships, worldviews and communities. This chapter addresses the way in which consumer organizations, advertisers and mass media have attempted to maximize consumption and profit since that time by appealing to and, often, manipulating the public in terms of many of the fundamental human needs discussed in earlier chapters. The role of modern media and now social media in consumer societies is also explored in relation to the proliferation of consumerist values as well as the commodification, monetization and overwhelming of our attention in pursuit of the aggressive marketing of products and services. Consumerism within our highly mediated culture, it is argued, has entailed a distortion of ideas, values and relationships together with the cultivation of a range of increasingly recognized personal, social, political and environmental ills, exerting a profound effect on societies as a whole. The chapter also acknowledges the impact of online shopping and the ensuing so-called ‘retail apocalypse’, considering whether this might lead to a necessary contraction in consumer activity over time, given the latter’s contribution to climate change and environmental degradation.

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The Great Decline is an ambitious work offering a wholly fresh take on the multiple crises we face, both individually and collectively, in the 21st century. The central argument is that, after a period of qualified social progress in the mid-20th century, recent decades have resurrected social and economic arrangements that are toxic in terms of our fundamental needs, undermining the social and political stability of our societies as well as our individual mental and physical health in ways that have been poorly understood and which have now reached a crisis point. Across numerous established democracies, including the UK and the US, the neoliberal consensus principally advanced in the 1980s continues to tear apart the social fabric and destroy countless individual lives amid a growing climate of fear, anger and uncertainty. Amongst a range of consequences, we have witnessed the rise of populist politicians exploiting and further sowing social distress and division, while the ensuing polarization and undermining of established democracies has left us ill-equipped to deal with the huge challenges being presented by climate breakdown and rapid advances in digital technologies. While addressing these troubles of the present, this is also approached from a broad historical and to an extent evolutionary context advancing an original biosocial perspective, the social map, drawing on social science, political economy, neuroscience and epigenetics to present a radical reframing of where we are, how we understand our relationship to the social, economic and political environment, and how we relate to each other.

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This chapter introduces the main conceptual and theoretical resources of the book after giving an in-depth, critical appraisal of the existing conceptual literature on belonging, exposing its limitations in understanding the complexity and multiplicity of the notion of belonging in general and the belonging of unaccompanied migrants more specifically. It discusses in detail Deleuze and Guattari’s theoretical terms of assemblage, molar, molecular and nomadic lines alongside others and shows their value in developing the concept of belonging and in our understanding of the belonging of unaccompanied young people in precarious positions. This chapter argues the case for a new conceptual understanding of belonging that is capable of capturing the shifts, multiplicities, complexities and paradoxes in experiencing and conceiving belonging in migration in relation to those in precarious positions.

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