Food as Commodity. Routledge Handbook on Food as Commons, Jose Luis Vivero Pol, Tomaso Ferrando, Olivier de Schutter, and Ugo Mattei, eds. (London: Routledge, forthcoming 2018).

Abstract

The post-World War II era witnessed a fundamental transformation of the global food system. Prior to World War II, food production was largely a national affair, rooted in the specific relations of production that were largely defined at the local or regional level. As agricultural productivity increased with the application of new technologies, including chemical fertilizer and other inputs, continued mechanization of production, and improvements in seed varieties and cultivars, the scale of production dramatically changed. Farms became larger and more productive, the number of farmers declined dramatically, and the scale of production shifted first from the local to the national, and later from the national to the global.

In this paper, I trace the commodification of food in political and economic terms from the end of World War II through the contemporary era. I argue that the rise and global expansion of neoliberal capitalism has fundamentally transformed our relation with food, resulting in the absolute commodification of food, the financialization of food as an instrument for speculative investment rather than a vital component of life, and a rearticulation of the concept of food security.