During the twentieth century, the culture of flowers, once the
privilege of a small wealthy group, di√used to a larger population in
the United States. In this study, I traced this process and followed
fresh flowers over time and space as they metamorphosed from a local to a
global phenomenon. This idiosyncratic commodity—highly perishable and
subject to all sorts of risks and limitations—changed in the process. It trans-
formed from a delicate fragrant perishable luxury into a sturdy, scentless
‘‘a√ordable luxury’’ that brought pleasure to many in the middle classes.
I found three frameworks to be helpful. Commodity chain analysis was
primary, with its focus on the economic and social organization of exchange
systems. Fine and Leopold’s systems of provision framework was also useful. It
similarly explores economic and social organization but acknowledges the
influence of cultural systems on consumption (2002, 7). Finally, Goody’s
notion of a culture of flowers crystallized this essential cultural component
through his exploration of the meanings assigned to flowers, the spreading
knowledge and enjoyment of flowers and their rich contribution to cultures.
At the same time governance of the fresh-cut flower commodity chain
altered. First consumers, then growers, and eventually middlemen influenced
the types of flowers produced. I have focused on this middle sector of this
chain—exporters, importers, wholesalers, and retailers and their relationships
with each other and with the growers and consumers of flowers—to explain
how and why this change occurred and the consequences for today’s flower
growers and consumers. The chain eventually split into two channels—the
specialty chain and the abundant chain. These channels evolved partly
through changes in growing and marketing, but alterations among the con-
suming classes and in the larger economic and social systems also influenced
their development.
Following the rose, lily, and lisianthus over time and space—along their
personal global commodity chains—revealed some of the subtler elements of
Previous Page Next Page