Food crises, food regimes and food movements: rumblings of reform or tides of transformation?
Eric Holt-Giménez and Annie Shattuck
This article addresses the potential for food movements to bring about substantive changes to the current global food system. After describing the current corporate food regime, we apply Karl Polanyi’s ‘double-movement’ thesis on capitalism to explain the regime’s trends of neoliberalism and reform. Using the global food crisis as a point of departure, we introduce a comparative analytical framework for different political and social trends within the corporate food regime and global food movements, characterizing them as ‘Neoliberal’, ‘Reformist’, ‘Progressive’, and ‘Radical’, respectively, and describe each trend based on its discourse, model, and key actors, approach to the food crisis, and key documents. After a discussion of class, political permeability, and tensions within the food movements, we suggest that the current food crisis offers opportunities for strategic alliances between Progressive and Radical trends within the food movement. We conclude that while the food crisis has brought a retrenchment of neoliberalization and weak calls for reform, the worldwide growth of food movements directly and indirectly challenge the legitimacy and hegemony of the corporate food regime. Regime change will require sustained pressure from a strong global food movement, built on durable alliances between Progressive and Radical trends.
At least year’s Clinton Global Initiative Gala dignitaries from the Queen of Jordan to the CEO of Goldman Sachs and World Bank President Robert Zoelick gathered to discuss pressing world issues. Alongside heads of state and business leaders sat iconic urban farmer and African-American food justice advocate Will Allen of Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s Growing Power. That evening, former President Bill Clinton referred to the former professional athlete as his ‘hero’. Allen’s presence in that elite group was in many ways a watershed moment. On one hand it signaled official recognition of the urban-based US ‘food justice’ movement in national and international food politics. On the other hand, it was an opaque reflection of the political divides and underlying class and racial tensions in the struggle over the world’s food.
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