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  • Barbaric, Unseen, and Unknown Orders:Innovative Research on Street and Farmers' Markets
  • Alexander V. Stehn

professor morales's coss dialogue lecture demonstrates the utility of pragmatism for his work as a social scientist across three projects: (1) field research studying the acephalous and heterogeneous social order of Chicago's Maxwell Street Market; (2) nascent research on how unseen religious orders animate the lives of im/migrants and their contributions to food systems; and (3) large-scale longitudinal research on farmers' markets using the Metrics + Indicators for Impact (MIFI) toolkit. The first two sections of my paper applaud and build upon Morales's first two projects, and my extremely brief third section raises some questions about positivist specters that may haunt the MIFI project insofar as it is conceptualized, described, and deployed using the terms favored by mainstream social science.

Barbaric Orders: Racist Dimensions of the Problem of Order in the Americas

Professor Morales charges positivist social scientists with baking no bread because they generally fail to move past dissection and facile explanation. Morales's great hope, which he names pragmatism, is that social scientists would not just dissect and better explain but actively foster acephalous and heterogeneous orders like street markets and farmers' markets. Citing half a century of theorists, Morales presents these markets as potential organs of self-government, as places that can promote maturity and responsibility, and as vehicles for building community across boundaries of ethnicity, race, or gender. Such nourishing bread! I share Morales's hope that philosophy and social science can help us better understand how this bread is baked and foster conditions for baking more of it. [End Page 47]

Morales sketches two basic models of order. The first looks back to Hobbes and forward to the positivists who believe that the only alternative to the war of all against all is "for individuals to surrender their liberty to a body that can produce cooperation and predictability" (Morales, "Food Systems" 30). The second model of order looks back to Montesquieu and forward to pragmatists like Mead who believe that "social order is composed of a system of ideas and behaviors that people learn, use, and modify according to their own purposes" (Morales, "Food Systems" 31). Given these two models, the most fascinating period of Chicago's Maxwell Street Market occurs when the city abandoned its vendors to their own devices. The result? "With neither a policeman nor a City official in sight . . . as many as 1,100 businesses coexist[ed], Sunday after Sunday, with hardly a hitch" (Morales, "Food Systems" 26).

This is only miraculous if we assume—as so many people do—that there is something unnatural or unlikely about acephalous and heterogeneous orders. To understand why people are shocked that a large urban street market could be successful without formal governmental regulations or the threat of police force, we should attend to the fact that such markets are typically run by people whose socioeconomic position is presupposed to make them disorderly and generally unfit for self-governance. Street vendors are typically im/migrants or other people of color who lack postsecondary education, that is, people that our existing socioeconomic orders relegate to the bottom of the pyramid (Cross and Morales). Over 80% of the vendors at Maxwell Street during Morales's fieldwork were black (~26%) or Latino (~57%) (Morales, "Woman's Place" 108). American hegemonic orders were built on the principle that such people are only fit to be governed, not to govern. African American vendors like Louis co-govern and cooperate in a country that considered his enslaved ancestors bestial and barbaric, and where the color of his skin is still associated with criminality and the need for more forceful order. Hispanic vendors like Pancho co-govern and cooperate in a country that historically only wanted him to provide low-wage labor overseen by whiter, wealthier, and better educated folks.

Variations of this racialized order were violently spread across all of what came to be called the Americas. Race was only one component in this ongoing experiment to construct a New World Order, but suffice it to say that before the arrival of Europeans, indigenous societies were not lacking in order. Rather...


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