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Varieties of food capitalism?: a political economy of food provisioning in the United Kingdom, France, and Australia
thesisposted on 2022-03-29, 03:30 authored by Brigit Busicchia
Most scholarship in the traditions of anthropology and sociology of food has advanced that cultural forces and social structures govern food practices. This thesis expands beyond the cultural realm of food practices to enquire as to how and why the cross-national variations in the social and political organisation of food provisioning of selected advanced economies developed and persisted. It aims to tie a historical perspective on the importance of political and social origins of modern food capitalisms to the current debate for an integrative food policy analysis instigated by Lang, Barling, and Caraher’s (2009) influential text, Food Policy. This thesis aims to explain why national food provisioning from production to consumption, continue to follow distinct developmental trajectories with no sign of convergence towards a single and unique model. The thesis uses the policy regime construct as an interpretive framework to span the analytical lens over the, usually independently studied, policy domains of food production, transformation, and consumption in three advanced economies – the United Kingdom, France, and Australia. The thesis demonstrates that focusing on the interplay between ideas, interests, and institutional arrangements — the 3’I’s that define a policy regime — shaping the pollical economy of food provisioning, can not only enrich Lang et al.’s (2009) integrative food policy analysis but also provide greater insights into the historical meta-analysis offered by the food regime theory (Friedmann & McMichael, 1989). The research concludes that two major influences shaped the developmental logic of national food provisioning over time — the extent to which domestic capitalism gained ascendency over traditions of localism, and the extent to which global logics took precedence over national policy autonomy. Historical and structural factors relevant to the initial subordination of agriculture to industry, the nature of state activism and agency, and the degree of national autonomy and ‘policy space’ within the global scene describe and explain the distinct dynamics of national food capitalism along alternative pathways. Food systems that developed out of the need to negotiate politically and socially the extent of the commodification of food provisioning as it was the case in France, came to be underpinned by very different sets of ideological and institutional arrangements than those where the integration of agriculture into the capitalist mode of production encountered less initial resistance. The thesis also proposes to distinguish national policy logics as a question of explicit or implicit emphasis. Just as France’s food policy environment makes the social relations of food explicit with well-defined systemic policy responses, the liberal economies of both the UK and Australia conceive the organisation of food provisioning in more implicit terms, creating a political distance between the policy issue and the sites of policy decision. Overall, the study confirms that today’s ‘varieties of food capitalism’ find their origins in the social and political dynamics present at the time of transitioning to a capitalist democracy, and finds little evidence for the convergence of national food policies.