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date: 25 March 2019

Abstract and Keywords

A political economy of food is, somewhat ironically, especially dependent on politics of ideas. Food as commodity certainly exhibits familiar forces of contention in political economy—the relative weights of interests contesting boundaries between state and market—but generates a distinctive politics for interrelated reasons. First, the urgency of food provisioning reflects biological necessity, not mere preference. Consequently, production and distribution animate a politics of security, rights, and social justice, and thereby special potential for collective action and contentious politics. Second, food engages deeply held cultural norms and ethical standards that transcend the politics of interest characteristic of less charged commodities. Finally, a looming sense of crisis and uncertainty in sustainability of global food production has made technical discourses dependent on expertise and science more indispensable but simultaneously more contentious—and transnational in scope. Expertise looms ever larger but has not depoliticized the production, consumption, and distribution of food.

Keywords: Food ethics, agrarian political economy, social justice, agro-ecology, biotechnology, GMOs, transnational advocacy networks, moral economy, political consumerism, food sovereignty, sustainability, organic foods, alternative food movement, food labels

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