An AMAP is an association for maintaining rural agriculture aiming at preserving local farm. Their purpose is to support sustainable agriculture through social responsibility policies and ecological concerns. Since the creation of the first AMAP in 2001, their number has increased exponentially and are present mostly in each regions of France: more than 2000 AMAP have been registered in 2015, which represents more than 250.000 members. 
How can we explain this enthusiasm? What significations do engaged consumers assign to AMAPs? What meaning do they confer to their consumption? On which imaginary, representations or values these types of consumption rely on? Based on a consequent ethnographic study, Philippe Robert-Demontrond, Vanessa Beaudoin and Isabelle Dabadies, researchers from the CREM, intend to provide some insights in their article published in Research and Applications in Marketing.
The Cultural Theory as guide
The authors use the framework of the Cultural Theory to interpret their data. The theory, from the anthropologist Mary Douglas, is relevant to analyze consumers’ behaviors and movement, such as community. It aims at shedding light on actors’ world visions, on their deep symbolic structures used for interpreting the world, on their critical judgement and their explanations for their actions. Three of the four world defined by the Cultural Theory are particularly present in the AMAP consumption style: the enclave world (egalitarian and community-based), the “contract” world (individualistic and entrepreneurial), and the “status” (elitist and hierarchical).
Coexistence of 3 universes of representations.
The presence of the enclave community for numerous consumers seems to be positive regarding its protective vocation towards individuals to prevent them from the market downward slide. However, this enclave community also has negative outcomes since it conducts to exclusion and isolation phenomenon that disturbs the development of the AMAP and exacerbates potential struggles and conflicts.
This leads to, in the heart of the AMAP organization, to the institution of the world of status. Here, little by little, appears phenomenon of distinction through a bipolarization of AMAP consumers related to the ones that are “in” or “out”, or the ones that “true” or “false”, or even “the good” and “the bad” ones. Consequently, we find the outline of a “wall of vertu”, in Douglas’ perspective.
Finally, for other AMAP consumers, we find traits of the contract world: i.e. the form of consumption, compared to others, that is based on the quest of functional, emotional or psychosocial benefits, in a more individualist and selfish logic.
Considering these issues, the authors suggest to consider AMAP as chimera, a system that combines different identities, which, through these tensions, can exist and evolve. Without the world of contract that enables to formalize relations between actors, the close enclave world get out of breath; without the world of enclave, the world of contract does not make sense anymore. As Weber would say, the AMAP communities are relevant places of investigation to capture the swing of actions between that are “purpose-based” logics (where rationality is a priority) and “value-based” (where the value is a priority).
The significations given by AMAP consumers to their consumption and their engagement are thus numerous and opposites. So, what type of AMAP consumer are you?