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The Fight Over Food

Producers, Consumers, and Activists Challenge the Global Food System

Edited by Wynne Wright and Gerad Middendorf

Publication Year: 2007

“One problem with the food system is that price is the bottom line rather than having the bottom line be land stewardship, an appreciation for the environmental and social value of small-scale family farms, or for organically grown produce.” —Interview with farmer in Skagit County, Washington For much of the later twentieth century, food has been abundant and convenient for most residents of advanced industrial societies. The luxury of taking the safety and dependability of food for granted pushed it to the back burner in the consciousness of many. Increasingly, however, this once taken-for-granted food system is coming under question on issues such as the humane treatment of animals, genetically engineered foods, and social and environmental justice. Many consumers are no longer content with buying into the mainstream, commodity-driven food market on which they once depended. Resistance has emerged in diverse forms, from protests at the opening of McDonald’s restaurants worldwide to ever-greater interest in alternatives, such as CSAs (community-supported agriculture), fair trade, and organic foods. The food system is increasingly becoming an arena of struggle that reflects larger changes in societal values and norms, as expectations are moving beyond the desire for affordable, convenient foods to a need for healthy and environmentally sound alternatives. In this book, leading scholars and scholar-activists provide case studies that illuminate the complexities and contradictions that surround the emergence of a “new day” in agriculture. The essays found in The Fight Over Food analyze and evaluate both the theoretical and historical contexts of the agrifood system and the ways in which trends of individual action and collective activity have led to an “accumulation of resistance” that greatly affects the mainstream market of food production. The overarching theme that integrates the case studies is the idea of human agency and the ways in which people purposefully and creatively generate new forms of action or resistance to facilitate social changes within the structure of predominant cultural norms. Together these studies examine whether these combined efforts will have the strength to create significant and enduring transformations in the food system.

Published by: Penn State University Press


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

Like the individual, collective, and institutional work required for transforming our agrifood system, this book is the product of a similar collaboration. The momentum for this project originated with the creative energies of members of the International Sociological Association’s Research Committee on Agriculture and Food (RC-40). ...

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Introduction: Fighting Over Food: Change in the Agrifood System

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pp. 1-26

Time magazine recently reported the story of a man in Ann Arbor, Michigan, who had been pulled over in his pickup truck by the state police for hauling illegal cargo. This was the culmination of a sting operation that resulted in seizure of the cargo. But this was no ordinary drug bust; the driver of the mud-splattered pickup truck was a dairy farmer dealing in raw milk ...

Part I. Conceptual Framework

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1. Agency and Resistance in the Sociology of Agriculture and Food

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pp. 29-44

While agency has occupied a prominent position since the classical period of sociology (i.e,Marx and Engels 1846/1990; Weber 1903/1947; Durkheim 1893/1964 and 1895/1982), more recent debates have forcefully reintroduced the topic (i.e., Archer 1995; Bourdieu 1998; Giddens 1990, 1994; Joas 2004). ...

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2. Agency and the Agrifood System

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pp. 45-68

Two tasks are undertaken in this chapter. First, I explore the current interest in agency and speculate as to its emergence, particularly among social scientists involved in the production-consumption debates. Second, because of the lack of definition of agency, I give various empirical examples in which behaviors related to agency can be said to be at work. ...

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3. Resistance, Agency, and Counterwork: A Theoretical Positioning

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pp. 69-90

The main task of this chapter is to unravel some of the conceptual and interpretative problems implicated in studying issues of “resistance” and “agency.” But why should we take up these seemingly old intellectual chestnuts when there already exists a voluminous body of literature on these matters? ...

Part II. Case Studies: Making Room for Agency

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4 Counterhegemony or Bourgeois Piggery? Food Politics and the Case of FoodShare

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pp. 93-120

Back in 1985, before there was an entire television channel devoted to food, before the omnipresence of Williams-Sonoma and a twenty-four-hour food network, and before Vogue declared food “the new sex,”1 Barbara Ehrenreich identified the growing cultural importance of food: “Among the upscale, trend-setting people who are held up for our admiration ...

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5. Resistance, Redistribution, and Power in the Fair Trade Banana Initiative

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pp. 121-144

The Fair Trade movement critiques the conventional agrifood system by connecting producers in the global South with consumers in the global North through alternative trade channels that are more equitable than those typical of conventional trade networks (Murray and Raynolds 2000; Raynolds 2002; Renard 2003). ...

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6. Sustaining Outrage: Cultural Capital, Strategic Location, and Motivating Sensibilities in the U.S. Anti–Genetic Engineering Movement

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pp. 145-176

There is strong evidence that a new social movement against genetic engineering (GE) in agriculture—or the “anti-GE movement,” for short1—has had a significant impact on the regulation of these new production technologies, the public awareness and acceptance of genetically modified foods, and the economic fortunes of the agricultural biotechnology industry ...

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7. Social Life and Transformation in Salmon Fisheries and Aquaculture

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pp. 177-200

Salmon are at the heart of major social changes taking place in the seafood sector. The recent emergence of global production methods based on the industrial farming of salmon has transformed seafood. The up side to this change has been that salmon, known to be an important part of a healthy diet, has been made more readily available to consumers. ...

Part III. Case Studies: Constraints to Agency

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8. Infertile Ground: The Struggle for a New Puerto Rican Food System

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pp. 203-224

Since the late 1970s, activists in Puerto Rico have struggled to promote sustainable agriculture as a means of breaking the island’s dependence on both food and food stamps from the United States. Farmers and activists have established farmers’markets and other direct-marketing opportunities, organized workshops on organic techniques and agroecology, ...

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9. Possibilities for Revitalizing Local Agriculture: Evidence from Four Counties in Washington State

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pp. 225-246

Research in the sociology of agriculture has come a long way since the late 1970s, when recurrent “farm crises” in the United States brought populist and Marxist scholars together to develop a “new political economy of agriculture” (Friedland 1991). At that time,many U.S. farm families were being squeezed out of agriculture in spite of their best efforts to sustain their farms, ...

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10. Consumers and Citizens in the Global Agrifood System: The Cases of New Zealand and South Africa in the Global Red Meat Chain

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pp. 247-272

With the rapid growth in studies of globalization and mass culture (e.g., Ritzer 1992), social studies of agriculture and food, or agrifood studies, have begun to examine social relations and practices surrounding agricultural production and food consumption in the context of rapid capital concentration in the global agrifood industry ...

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Conclusion: From Mindful Eating to Structural Change

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pp. 273-286

We began this book by laying out some of the major changes we see taking place in our relationship to food and agriculture. From the contentious politics aimed at rectifying injustices around global trade to the debates over scale-appropriate production and processing, contests over the future of food and agriculture are thriving. ...


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pp. 287-302

Back Cover

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p. 313-313

E-ISBN-13: 9780271034980
Print-ISBN-13: 9780271032740
Print-ISBN-10: 027103274X

Page Count: 312
Publication Year: 2007