Theories of practice developed in the United Kingdom and Scandinavian countries at the turn of the century. They have been widely used in studies of consumption practices. Inspired by Bourdieu and Giddens, they take position against both rational choice theories and culturalist analyses of consumption centered on consumption’s symbolic dimension. Theories of practice typically focus not on people but on practices. Practices are defined as blocks of activities, meanings, competences and things. Practice theories are mainly used in order to analyse how a practice emerges, transforms and diffuses by recruiting new “practitioners”. This approach sheds light on how practices change, on the temporal structure of social activities and on the tension between routine and reflexivity. Things and material infrastructure also have an important role. This note presents the origins of this theoretical approach, its main claims and an appraisal from the French sociology perspective. We suggest that practice theories could strengthen the analysis of those public policies aiming at regulating consumption practices in a variety of fields, from health and food consumption to addiction, by overcoming some shortcomings of the approaches based on individual education and incentive.
- theories of practice