Agribusiness, the Family Farm, and the Politics of Technological Determinism in the Post–World War II United States
Abstract

This historical political etymology of the term agribusiness (coined in 1955 by John H. Davis) traces the rise of a significant keyword in post–World War II American discourse. Contentious U.S. domestic farm politics of the 1950s shaped the discourse on agriculture and technology, producing a rhetorical context for Republican attacks on New Deal–era farm programs. This political climate produced new meanings for another relatively recent term, family farm—a phrase taken up by Democrats in the 1950s seeking to continue government oversight of the agricultural economy. Furthermore, technological determinism in American cold war political culture endowed agribusiness with lasting discursive power that signified—and too often justified—the seeming inevitability of a consumer-driven, technologically determined, corporate capitalist logic of food production and distribution.


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