Optimism of the will: Food sovereignty as transformative counter-hegemony in the 21st century

Rose, N 2013, Optimism of the will: Food sovereignty as transformative counter-hegemony in the 21st century, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Global Studies, Social Science and Planning, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Optimism of the will: Food sovereignty as transformative counter-hegemony in the 21st century
Author(s) Rose, N
Year 2013
Abstract This thesis explores the significance of the transnational movement for food sovereignty, in the context of three key intensifying tensions in global and national food systems: namely over-production, inequality, and ecological degradation. Using the synthesised methodology of a neo-Gramscian political ecology, the thesis asks whether the engagements to date of the Food Sovereignty movement with these tensions are deep and constructive. It does this by using the device of a hypothesis, within the framework and method of a Gramscian theory of politics: is the Food Sovereignty movement a counter-hegemonic movement, vis-à-vis the globalising capitalist food system as a hegemonic power formation in global politics?

Thus, the substance of the thesis is a ‘balance of forces’ assessment, conducted in order to determine the existing ‘effective reality’ as between the forces of food sovereignty and those of the globalising capitalist food system. The form of the thesis takes accordingly a ‘double-movement’ character. The first movement is where the context, being, respectively, the political-institutional, and economic-ecological, framework and conditions of the globalising capitalist food system, is discussed and analysed in depth. Here the theoretical resources of political ecology, and supportive Marxist-informed political economy approaches such as regime and food regime theory, and theories exploring the dynamics and historical evolution of globalising capitalism across time and space, are marshalled in order to probe the manner in which the hegemony of the globalising capitalist food system has been constructed and maintained over time, and to understand the ways in which that hegemony is being renegotiated in the context of the contemporary ‘global food crisis’.

The second movement analyses the responses by key actors within the Food Sovereignty movement to the political-institutional, and economic-ecological, context. This movement draws on the empirical work undertaken for the thesis, in the form of two case studies: the development of food sovereignty at the transnational level by the peasant and family farmer organisation La Via Campesina; and two elements of the local food movement in Australia, namely on the Coffs Coast region of New South Wales, and the Food Connect social enterprise in Brisbane, Queensland. Particular attention is focused on the efforts devoted by La Via Campesina to the securing of a new United Nations Declarations on the Rights of Peasants; and to the development of a hybridised version of community-supported agriculture in Australia by Food Connect.

The thesis concludes that the Food Sovereignty movement is a potential counter-hegemonic movement, and accordingly that its engagements with the tensions of the globalising capitalist food system are deep and constructive. This positive conclusion is tempered with a number of qualifications regarding the lack of coherence, in certain respects, of the food sovereignty alternative, which are, in my assessment, impacting its political effectiveness. At the same time, these limitations represent opportunities for the further theoretical and political development of food sovereignty, which in turn will enhance its transformative potential.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Global Studies, Social Science and Planning
Keyword(s) Food sovereignty
food politics
transnational agrarian movements
political ecology
globalising capitalism
political economy
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Created: Mon, 29 Apr 2013, 11:17:03 EST by Brett Fenton
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