Alternative Agrifood Movements: Patterns of Convergence and Divergence: Volume 21

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Table of contents

(20 chapters)
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Dedication

Page xiii
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Abstract

This introduction provides an overview of the discourse on alternative agrifood movements (AAMs) to (1) ascertain the degree of convergence and divergence around a common ethos of alterity and (2) context the chapters of the book. AAMs have increased in recent years in response to the growing legitimation crisis of the conventional agrifood system. Some agrifood researchers argue that AAMs represent the vanguard movement of our time, a formidable counter movement to global capitalism. Other authors note a pattern of blunting of the transformative qualities of AAMs due to conventionalization and mainstreaming in the market. The literature on AAMs is organized following a Four Questions in Agrifood Studies (Constance, 2008) framework. The section for each Question ends with a case study to better illustrate the historical dynamics of an AAM. The literature review ends with a summary of the discourse applied to the research question of the book: Are AAMs the vanguard social movement of our time? The last section of this introduction provides a short description of each contributing chapter of the book, which is divided into five sections: Introduction; Theoretical and Conceptual Framings; Food Sovereignty Movements; Alternative Movements in the Global North; and Conclusions.

Abstract

Food movements and organizations are increasingly complementing their longstanding emphasis on environment with a focus on social justice. This conceptual chapter discusses dimensions in which engagements in this arena diverge and converge along a continuum from neoliberalization to opposition/structural change. Categories and visions of social justice vary widely, highlighting certain social categories and locations while eliding others. Gender, in particular, is a social category that is a key factor in the allocation of power and privilege, but that has not been significantly addressed in efforts toward social justice in most food movements.

The topics and categories movements consider most important determine their assignments of energies. These assignments in turn create common understandings of priorities and mechanisms for changing the food system, although they may omit consideration of key axes of oppression. For example, strategic preferences for family farms and food-system localization may not consider legacies and contemporary practices of enslavement, exploitation, and patriarchy.

As movements increase their focus on social justice, they can engage in critical reflection and dialogue to interrogate the nature of conditions of injustice and the causes behind these conditions. This would include examining how practices and discourses of racism, classism, and sexism – along with the ways they intersect – have shaped, reflect, and reproduce the food system. This process must privilege the participation, perspectives, and priorities of those who suffer from injustice. It can then best illuminate strategic definitions and pathways that can move toward transformation of a food system grounded in conditions of social justice.

Abstract

The success enjoyed by some of the alternative agrifood movements has led to a dual process: on the one hand, their mainstreaming and cooptation; while on the other hand, their institutionalization into public regulation and law. This dual process is the result of the influence these movements have had on consumers and politicians and serves to demonstrate the constant exchange between the spheres of public and private regulation, a feature that characterizes the neoliberal model of governance. In turn, this has led to the appearance of new alternative initiatives which may converge with or diverge from founding initiatives when these are the result of divisions within a movement. The question that arises here is obvious: despite these evident achievements, by working within the market and using the tools of neoliberal regulation, have these movements managed to generate the social change they intended from the outset? This chapter will attempt to answer the question by offering a reflection on two of the most widely discussed aspects of this strategy: first, the private and/or public space where these movements develop and the citizen-consumer duality of the actors to whom they appeal; and second, their ability to generate standards, norms, and certification systems, that is, their ability to establish the rules of the game.

Abstract

This chapter examines La Vía Campesina’s strategy of consolidating strategic alliances in its global struggle to build food sovereignty. After discussing some of La Vía Campesina’s initial challenges in working with nongovernmental organizations we focus on two case studies: first, La Vía Campesina’s work with Veterinarios Sin Fronteras, based in Spain, and second, the International Planning Committee on Food Sovereignty. In both cases we analyze some of the convergences and divergences experienced by the social actors in efforts to build strategic alliances.

Abstract

Major pillar of Via Campesina in Brazil, the Landless Workers’ Movement (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra – MST) political platform combines land reform and agro-ecology, claiming for a profound change in the hegemonic agriculture model in the country, hoisting the ‘food sovereignty’ flag. However, this was not a linear trajectory. Focusing on events that took place in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, the birthplace of the MST, this chapter aims to analyse the different path followed by MST there in order to consolidate the ‘conquered’ settlements. The organization approached, initially, a network of technicians and social organizations critics of the technological package of the Green Revolution in Brazil. Afterwards, choose to support the deployment of conventional agriculture in the agrarian reform settlements, prioritizing collective organization of labour through cooperatives of production, practicing an agriculture based in the intensive use of pesticides, chemical fertilizers and commercial seed varieties. Thanks to the growing international connections of the MST, that paved the way for the creation of Via Campesina, and to the proximity to ‘militant technicians’ coming mainly from the agronomy student movement, in the end of the 1990s, MST resumed its dialogue with alternative agriculture strands, particularly with agro-ecology, campaigning for an agriculture based on principles of environmental conservation and valorization of the peasant way of life.

Abstract

In this chapter we focus on food sovereignty and agroecology, in the transnational peasant social movement La Via Campesina, as issues which help us analyze mechanisms of internal convergence in rural social movements. We examine such convergence through the building of collective processes, and in the construction of mobilizing frames for collective action. In particular, we analyze the encounter and diálogo de saberes (dialog among different knowledges and ways of knowing) between different rural cultures (East, West, North, and South; peasant, indigenous, and rural proletarian; etc.) that take place within it. This dialog among the “absences” left out by the dominant monoculture of ideas, has led to a process of convergence that has yielded important “emergences,” which range from mobilizing frames for collective action – like the food sovereignty concept – to social methodologies for the spread of agroecology among peasant families.

Abstract

Food sovereignty has increasingly become a common political framework for alternative food movements seeking for radical change in the agrifood system. The transformative potential of food sovereignty is context-dependent, resulting in different approaches and strategies in different territories. In this chapter, we address the case of Catalonia (Spain), as an example of global North food sovereignty movement, in which consumers play a predominant role. Based on five discourses on food sovereignty previously identified as a political proposal for social change in Catalonia, namely “activism,” “anti-purism,” “self-management,” “pedagogy,” and “pragmatism,” we discuss internal divergences within the movement that lead to convergences with other political trends in the agrifood system. Despite the movement converges in several critical points at a conceptual level, such as what is the meaning of food sovereignty, or its understanding of the food sovereignty proposal as a vehicle for deepening democracy, it has strong divergences at the operational level, that is, on how to achieve the social and political change it seeks. A structuralist or agency-focused vision of social change and the relevance assigned to ideological affinity among actors are core elements explaining such divergences. In this chapter, the authors explore these internal divergences within the Catalan food sovereignty movement, which at the same time lead to convergences with other repoliticization concepts within the agrifood studies literature (specifically food democracy, food citizenship, and political consumerism).

Abstract

A robust literature has developed that demonstrates that ethical consumption, particularly “buycotts,” is on the rise. However, not much is known about (1) consumer convergence: do consumers who purchase one “ethical” product also purchase others, and (2) the degree to which ethical consumers make their purchasing decisions for collective reasons. We attempt to fill this lacuna in the literature. This study uses results from a mail survey of a random sample of 500 Colorado residents to examine the degree of convergence between consumers of organic, fair trade, locally grown, animal friendly, made in the United States, and union made products with tetrachoric correlations coefficients and binary logistic regression models. We also investigate the degree of convergence between consumers who report holding collective motivations for purchasing ethical products through these same methods. Our findings indicate strong support for convergence between ethical consumers and consumers who believe they are acting collectively. The results suggest that many ethical consumers believe they are part of an “imagined community” of citizen–consumers who through their joint purchasing decisions are critiquing and hopefully changing traditional production–consumption commodity networks.

Abstract

This chapter explores the relationships between organisational type, rationales and the barriers that prevent community food projects from increasing the scale of their operations. From a broad survey of community food projects, organisations were divided according to their primary rationale (e.g. rural economic development and distribution), and then subdivided – by form – as a non-profit, private business, governmental agency or cooperative. Data from the interviews and surveys were coded using a qualitative grounded theory approach, to reveal the barriers experienced by each. Overall, access to long-term stable income is a recurrent theme across all types of projects. However, income sources dramatically change how these organisations prioritise barriers. Similarly, the organisation’s primary rationale and experiences influence the interpretation and approach to collaboration and education. Despite these differences, our results suggest a large degree of convergence that cuts across organisational forms and rationales, and offer a base for broader regional food system conversations.

Abstract

This chapter seeks to address questions related to the convergence among alternative agrifood movements as well as the convergence between alternative and conventional practices with a focus on local movements. We reconstruct the common conflation of the alternative/conventional binary into a multidimensional measure that recognizes the complex interactions of economic, political, social, and cultural elements in the construction of convention, alterity, and opposition. We also consider several forms of possible convergence: multi-organizational, multi-sectoral (among elements of the agrifood system), multidimensional (among political, economic, cultural, and social practices), and multilevel or scale (hierarchy of spatially embedded governance units). These matters are empirically examined by focusing on the rapidly growing Food Policy Council (FPC) movement in North America. We address the question of this movement’s diffusion, consider its variable linkages between state and civil society, and examine the substantive practices and framings in which the movement has been engaged. While we find that most FPC practices are probably vulnerable to conventionalization, the movement’s most valuable function may be its modular form. That form functions as an incubator of multi-organizational and multi-sectoral experimental practices in a multiplicity of local environments. Further, ties between FPCs provide a networking mechanism for transmitting information about the successes and failures of those experiments among hundreds of locales and regions. Finally, the discourse among the FPC leadership amplifies values favoring the democratization of food, and articulates beliefs in the right to food as well as notions of food citizenship and sovereignty.

Abstract

Efforts to increase sustainability are increasingly being promulgated using non-state forms of governance. Currently, there are multiple multi-stakeholder initiatives (MSIs) working to develop sustainability standards and metrics for US agriculture. These include: LEO-4000, Field to Market, and the Sustainability Consortium. Using Paul Thompson’s (2010) tripartite sustainability framework, the proposed sustainability standards and metrics of the three MSIs are assessed. Our findings indicate that the current political economic stakeholder nexus is producing incremental adjustments to the status quo of industrial agriculture. Put differently, the standards and metrics being produced by these initiatives are largely advancing programs of sustainable intensification in which sustainability is equated with increasing resource efficiencies. Hence, our research problematizes the efficacy of non-state governance approaches for transformative change in food and agriculture. The findings in this chapter are based on fieldwork conducted between 2011 and 2013.

Abstract

In this chapter we discuss the dynamics of convergence-divergence between organic and non-organic farming systems. We are specifically interested in how and in what ways organic systems emerge into a new system that synthesizes the diverse qualities of competing systems. Or, will these systems continue to diverge because of their path dependencies and contradictory, unresolvable logics? Alternatively, are we confronted with conversion? Following a discussion of the origin of organic agriculture and the IFOAM Principles, we explore differentiation of two agricultural paradigms that was developed more than 20 years ago before the rise of GMOs. This comparison identifies the key features of both systems and a first interpretation on the potential of convergence-divergence. Third, we take a macro-look at agro-food chain that offers insights on the convergence-divergence potential in the context of global, economic, market, political, and societal dynamics. Fourth, we discuss convergence-divergence at the production level comparing the four agricultural systems. Finally, we reflect and assess on the explanatory potential of our study for the future development of organic and non-organic agriculture/farming. We conclude that there is more evidence for conversion than for convergence.

Abstract

Through a categorisation of the convergence/divergence frame of this book into conceptual, organisational and analytical, and following a ‘corporate environmental’ and ‘corporate food’ regimes theoretical basis, in this chapter we sum up the findings of this collective work and develop some future research needs. The results presented show that at the conceptual level we can outline two different trends regarding alternative agrifood movements and their social transformation potential. In the global South the movements have a more radical/oppositional focus while in the global North the focus is more alternative/progressive. The context in the latter, where the movements are generally consumers leaded and political consumerism plays an important role, is a serious threat for the movements, leading to a loss of the transformative ideal as mainstreaming and conventionalisation occurs. We wonder if it is possible to build a common fighting strategy with a model perspective that allows global North movements to stay radical/oppositional. At the organisational level we conclude that novel tools are required to build common views promoting oppositional strategies. Experiences from the Diálogo de Saberes suggest that this tool built on different principles and values such as horizontalisation, learning, respect or gender perspective, among others, can be useful in this matter. In this regard, further research is needed to look at how alternative agrifood movements deal with gender and whether ecofeminist theories can help in the process of building a common global oppositional strategy. Finally, the analytical level centred in the production system shows that even at this very pragmatic level the food regime applies and that it is the values underlying each production system what defines the options for convergence and divergence.

DOI
10.1108/S1057-1922201421
Publication date
2014-12-03
Book series
Research in Rural Sociology and Development
Editors
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN
978-1-78441-090-2
eISBN
978-1-78441-089-6
Book series ISSN
1057-1922