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“Coming home to eat” [Nabhan, 2002. Coming Home to Eat: The Pleasures and Politics of Local Foods. Norton, New York] has become a clarion call among alternative food movement activists. Most food activist discourse makes a strong connection between the localization of food systems and the promotion of environmental sustainability and social justice. Much of the US academic literature on food systems echoes food activist rhetoric about alternative food systems as built on alternative social norms. New ways of thinking, the ethic of care, desire, realization, and vision become the explanatory factors in the creation of alternative food systems. In these norm-based explanations, the “Local” becomes the context in which this type of action works. In the European food system literature about local “value chains” and alternative food networks, localism becomes a way to maintain rural livelihoods. In both the US and European literatures on localism, the global becomes the universal logic of capitalism and the local the point of resistance to this global logic, a place where “embeddedness” can and does happen. Nevertheless, as other literatures outside of food studies show, the local is often a site of inequality and hegemonic domination. However, rather than declaim the “radical particularism” of localism, it is more productive to question an “unreflexive localism” and to forge localist alliances that pay attention to equality and social justice. The paper explores what that kind of localist politics might look like.
Journal of Rural Studies 21 (2005) 359–371
Should we go ‘‘home’’ to eat?: toward a reflexive politics of localism
E. Melanie DuPuis
, David Goodman
Department of Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA, USA
Environmental Studies, UC Santa Cruz, CA, USA
‘‘Coming home to eat’’ [Nabhan, 2002. Coming Home to Eat: The Pleasures and Politics of Local Foods. Norton, New York] has
become a clarion call among alternative food movement activists. Most food activist discourse makes a strong connection between
the localization of food systems and the promotion of environmental sustainability and social justice. Much of the US academic
literature on food systems echoes food activist rhetoric about alternative food systems as built on alternative social norms. New
ways of thinking, the ethic of care, desire, realization, and vision become the explanatory factors in the creation of alternative food
systems. In these norm-based explanations, the ‘‘Local’’ becomes the context in which this type of action works. In the European
food system literature about local ‘‘value chains’’ and alternative food networks, localism becomes a way to maintain rural
livelihoods. In both the US and European literatures on localism, the global becomes the universal logic of capitalism and the local
the point of resistance to this global logic, a place where ‘‘embeddedness’’ can and does happen. Nevertheless, as other literatures
outside of food studies show, the local is often a site of inequality and hegemonic domination. However, rather than declaim the
‘‘radical particularism’’ of localism, it is more productive to question an ‘‘unreflexive localism’’ and to forge localist alliances that
pay attention to equality and social justice. The paper explores what that kind of localist politics might look like.
r2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
1. Introduction
Books such as ‘‘Coming home to eat’’ (Nabhan, 2002)
and ‘‘Eat Here’’ (Halweil, 2004) represent the current
clarion call among alternative food system advocates.
US food activist discourse, with its growing discussion
of ‘‘foodsheds’’ and the problems of ‘‘food miles,’’ has
been making increasingly stronger connections between
the localization of food systems and the promotion of
environmental sustainability and social justice. In
activist narratives, the local tends to be framed as the
space or context where ethical norms and values can
flourish, and so localism becomes inextricably part of
the explanation for the rise of alternative, and more
sustainable, food networks. In Europe, localization has
become integral to a new E.U. system of devolved rural
governance to enhance rural livelihoods and preserve
European heritage. In both cases, although for different
reasons, the local has become ‘‘beautiful,’’ as was
‘‘small’’ (‘‘pluriactive’’ in Europe) in the 1970s and
1980s, ‘‘organic’’ (‘‘multifunctional’’) in the 1990s or—
at least in the US—‘‘wilderness’’ early in the last
In many cases, academics also have embraced
localization as a solution to the problems of global
industrial agriculture. In the US, the academic literature
on alternative food systems emphasizes the strength of
an embeddedness in local norms (Kloppenburg et al.,
1996;Starr et al., 2003;DeLind, 2002), such as the ethics
of care, stewardship and agrarian visions. This norma-
tive localism places a set of pure, conflict-free local
values and local knowledges in resistance to anomic and
contradictory capitalist forces. In Europe, the encour-
agement of local food systems has different roots. It has
emerged in the context of new forms of devolved rural
governance in parallel with the slow process of reform of
the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The CAP
is undergoing a gradual transformation from a strongly
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Corresponding author.
E-mail addresses: (E.M. DuPuis), (D. Goodman).
centralized, productivist sectoral policy towards a more
decentralized model in which a multi-functional agri-
culture is a key element of an integrated, more pluralistic
approach to rural development (Gray, 2000;Lowe et al.,
2002). In addition, at the meso-level, episodic food
‘scares’ and heightened consumer health and food safety
concerns in Europe have stimulated a ‘turn’ to quality in
food provisioning and reinforced support for multi-
functional agriculture. Supporters of local food systems
in Europe, while arguably less prone to the radical
transformative idealism of US social movements, regard
relocalization and re-embedding as strategies to realize a
Eurocentric rural imaginary and defend its cultural
identity against a US-dominated, corporate globaliza-
Our own work certainly supports the view that global
industrial agriculture has succeeded through the crea-
tion of a systemic ‘placelessness’, and that place has a
role in the building of alternative food systems (DuPuis,
2002, 2005;Goodman and Watts, 1997). Yet, also based
on our past work, we are cautious about an emancipa-
tory food agenda that relies primarily on the naming
and following of a particular set of norms or imaginaries
about place (Goodman and DuPuis, 2002;DuPuis et al.,
forthcoming; See also Gaytan, 2004). As the following
discussion will show, an ‘‘unreflexive’’ localism could
threaten a similar romantic move to the ‘‘saving nature’’
rhetoric of environmental social movements. Unreflex-
ive localism, we argue, can have two major negative
consequences. First, it can deny the politics of the local,
with potentially problematic social justice consequences.
Second, it can lead to proposed solutions, based on
alternative standards of purity and perfection, that are
vulnerable to corporate cooptation (Guthman, 2004;
DuPuis, 2002).
We are therefore joining a growing number of agro-
food scholars who have acknowledged with David
Harvey (1996) that the local is not an innocent term,
observing that it can provide the ideological foundations
for reactionary politics and nativist sentiment (Hinrichs,
2000, 2003;Hassanein, 2003). We agree with the many
recent thoughtful critiques that have called for a closer
examination of ‘‘the local’’ of local food systems, to
‘‘explore the ambiguities and subtleties of the ideas of
‘localness’ and ‘quality’’’ (Holloway and Kneafsey,
2000, p. 296 quoted in Winter, 2003. See also Allen et
al., 2003). In common with these scholars, our critique is
meant to be cautionary, not destructive of the alter-
native food agenda (against global, big, conventional,
environmentally degrading food systems). The intent of
our critique is to put localist actions on a better political
footing, one that can contribute to a more democratic
local food politics. In this vein, we will question a
localism which is based on a fixed set of norms or
imaginaries. In particular, we show how an ‘‘unreflex-
ive’’ localism arises from a perfectionist utopian vision
of the food system in which food and its production are
aligned with a set of normative, pre-set ‘‘standards.’’
This kind of food reform movement seeks to delineate
‘alternative’ food practice standards and pre-determine
their ‘economies of quality’ rather than to engender the
alternative political processes by which local decisions
about the food system could come about democratically.
With these aims in mind, we begin with a brief
overview of the a-political (anti-democratic, anti-reflex-
ive) bent in current food localism discourse in the US
(brief because the critique has largely already been
covered, particularly by Hinrichs, and Allen et al.). This
is followed by a more substantial review of localist
‘‘value-chain’’ rural development studies in Europe,
which we believe have strong parallels with US localist
perspectives, particularly in their lack of reflexive
attention to local politics. We then explore ideas from
human geography, political sociology and political
science that we believe provide useful pointers on how
to bring politics into analyses of local food networks.
This will also enable us to understand the claims for and
against localism as a normative solution to globaliza-
tion. We will use these conceptual tools to examine both
the US localism literature and the European scholarship
on the quality ‘turn’, ‘alternative agro-food networks’
(AAFN) and ‘short food supply chains’ (SFSC).
1.1. The romantic anti-politics of localism studies
There are strong parallels between the academic
literature on alternative, localized food systems and
the rhetoric of food activism built on alternative social
norms or a kind of ‘‘alternative ethic.’’ Norm-based and
ethical narratives also have become one pillar of a
questionable scalar binary of global-local relations, as
we observe below. Many of the arguments speak about
‘‘relocalizing’’ food systems (Hendrickson and Heffer-
nan, 2002) into local ‘‘foodsheds’’ (Kloppenburg et al.,
1996), thereby ‘‘recovering a sense of community’’
(Esteva, 1994) by ‘‘reembedding’’ food into ‘local
ecologies’ (Murdoch et al., 2000) and local social
relationships (Friedmann, 1994, p. 30). For example,
Holloway and Kneafsey (2004) argue that alternative
food networks resist capitalism through a substantively
rational form of norm-based action. Localist food
politics, therefore, ‘‘implies that food production–con-
sumption is undertaken within an ethical framework’’
and that this ‘‘ethic of care’’ is intrinsically spatial:
‘‘These spatialities are often associated with the desire to
foster relations of ‘closeness’ or ‘connectedness’’’ (2004,
p. 1). Hartwick argues that a geography of consumption
entails ‘‘a greater realization of connections between
consumers, places, and networks [which] allows an
ethical politics of consumption’’ (1998, p. 424).
In their study of alternative visions of food and
farming among alternative food producers and activists
E.M. DuPuis, D. Goodman / Journal of Rural Studies 21 (2005) 359–371360
in the Upper Midwest, Kloppenburg et al. (2000, p. 182)
found that one key definition of sustainable food
involved production in a ‘‘proximate system’’ which
emphasized ‘‘locally grown food, regional trading
associations, locally owned processing, local currency,
and local control over politics and regulation’’. Simi-
larly, in their analysis of a local Kansas City Food
Circle, Hendrickson and Heffernan (2002, p. 362) state
that ‘‘the Food Circle’s perceived role is to connect all
actors in the food system in a sensible and sustainable
way that sustains the community, is healthy for people
and the environment, and returns control of the food
system to local communities’’.
These positions are based in a counter-logic to the
political economy of agriculture arguments about the
rise of capitalist agriculture as a global corporate regime
(McMichael, 2000). As Hendrickson and Heffernan
(2002, p. 349) describe it:
As people foster relationships with those who are no
longer in their locale, distant others can structure the
shape and use of the locale, a problem that is being
explicitly rejected by those involved in local food
system movements across the globe. This compres-
sion of space and the speed-up of time are key
components of accumulation in the modern era. In
the global food system, power rests with those who
can structure this system by spanning distance and
decreasing time between production and consump-
tion. This reorganization of time and space indicates
a great deal of power on the part of just a few actors
that are able to benefit from the restructuring of the
food system.
Localism becomes a counter-hegemony to this globa-
lization thesis, a call to action under the claim that the
counter to global power is local power. In other words,
if global is domination then in the local we must find
freedom. Friedmann, a trenchant observer of the
globalization of food, makes this point forcefully:
‘‘[o]nly food economies that are bounded, that is,
regional, can be regulated’’ because they bypass the
‘‘corporate principles of distance and durability’’ (1994,
p. 30).
Pointing to Habermas’ idea of the ‘‘colonization of
the lifeworld’’ by the instrumental (anomic) reason of
capitalism, Hendrickson and Heffernan (2002) corre-
spondingly embrace the local as the normative realm of
resistance, a place where caring can and does happen.
This echoes much of the US local food system literature,
in which care ethics, desire, realization, and a sustain-
able vision become the explanatory factors in the
creation of alternative food systems. In these norm or
ethics-based explanations, the ‘‘Local’’ becomes the
context in which cultural values work against anomic
capitalism (See also Krippner, 2001). In Europe, the
local is invested with similar hopes as a redoubt against
globalized mass consumption of ‘placeless foods’
(Murdoch and Miele, 1999, 2002;Murdoch et al., 2000).
But who gets to define ‘‘the local’’? What exactly is
‘‘quality’’ and who do you trust to provide you with this
quality? What kind of society is the local embedded in?
Who do you care for and how? As Hinrichs, Winter and
others have noted, ‘‘the local’’ as a concept intrinsically
implies the inclusion and exclusion of particular people,
places and ways of life. The representation of the local
and its constructs—quality, embeddedness, trust, care—
privilege certain analytical categories and trajectories,
whose effect is to naturalize and occlude the politics of
the local. The naturalized local then becomes heralded
as the incubator of new economic forms whose
emergence configures a ‘new rural development para-
digm’ for some observers (Ploeg et al., 2000).
Food activists in the US and proponents in Europe of
agrarian-based rural development both therefore argue
that localist solutions resist the injustices perpetrated by
industrial capitalism. But is localism in itself more
socially just? Along with Harvey (2001), we are
concerned that localism can be based on the interests
of a narrow, sectionalist, even authoritarian, elite, what
we call an ‘‘unreflexive’’ politics. To formulate a more
reflexive politics of localism, we draw specifically on the
social justice literature, and on the idea of an ‘‘open
politics’’ of reflexivity to envision a localism that is more
socially just while leaving open a definition of social
justice. Unreflexive politics are generally based on what
Childs (2003) refers to as ‘‘the politics of conversion’’: a
small, unrepresentative group decides what is ‘‘best’’ for
everyone and then attempts to change the world by
converting everyone to accept their utopian ideal.
Together with other scholars of contemporary democ-
racy, such as Nancy Fraser (1995) and Iris Young
(2000), Childs argues that the more democratic (or what
we are calling ‘‘reflexive’’ and ‘‘open’’, what Childs calls
‘‘transcommunal’’ and what Benhabib (1996) calls
‘‘deliberative’’) politics is the ‘‘politics of respect’’. Here,
the emphasis is not on creating an ideal utopian
‘‘romantic’’ model of society and then working for
society to meet that standard, but on articulating
‘‘open,’’ continuous, ‘‘reflexive’’ processes which bring
together a broadly representative group of people to
explore and discuss ways of changing their society.
These processes also take account of the unintended
consequences, ironies and contradictions involved in all
social change, and treat ongoing conflicts and differ-
ences between various groups not as polarizing divisions
but as grounds for respectful—and even productive—
disagreement (cf. Hassanein, 2003). In other words, we
place fully democratic processes squarely at the center of
our formulation of an open politics of localism.
From this perspective, the critiques made by Hinrichs
(2000, 2003),Hinrichs and Kremer (2002),Winter (2003)
and Allen et al. (2003) can be seen as raising the problem
E.M. DuPuis, D. Goodman / Journal of Rural Studies 21 (2005) 359–371 361
that unreflexive localism can lead to a potentially
undemocratic, unrepresentative, and defensive militant
particularism. Hinrichs (2000, p. 301) has made the
fundamental point that to assume that locally embedded
economic activities necessarily involve non-instrumen-
tal, ethics-based interpersonal relations is to ‘‘conflate
spatial relations with social relations.’’ In this respect,
Hinrichs and Kremer (2002) show that local food system
movement members tend to be white, middle-class
consumers and that the movement threatens to be
socially homogenized and exclusionary. In a case-study
of recent initiatives to relocalize the food system in
Iowa, Hinrichs (2003, p. 37) cautions that these attempts
to construct regional identity can be associated with a
‘‘defensive politics of localization,’’ leading to reification
of the ‘local’ and becoming ‘‘elitist and reactionary,
appealing to nativist sentiments.’’
Allen et al. (2003) also demonstrate that localism in
current alternative food movements is not necessarily
associated with advocacy of more socially just ‘‘care
ethic’’ political agendas. In their study of alternative
food initiatives in California, the leaders of these
organizations articulate a clear preference for ecological
sustainability over social justice, and express confidence
in entrepreneurial, market-based processes of change in
the current food system. (See also Allen, 1999). In
Europe, Michael Winter (2003) also situates his empiri-
cal analysis of support for local farming in five rural
areas of England and Wales within ideologies of
‘defensive localism’, and notes that local consumers
can regard conventionally produced foods as equally
locally embedded as organic products. On the basis of
these findings, Winter (2003, p. 30) concludes that ‘‘the
turn to local food may cover many different forms of
agricultureygiving rise to a wide range of politics.’’
These critiques show that the politics of localism can
be problematic and contradictory. However, these
critiques are not made to de-legitimize localism but to
provide a better understanding of the complexity and
pitfalls of local politics and the long-term deleterious
effects of reform movements controlled primarily by
members of the middle class. The social history of
middle class reform movements bent on ‘‘improve-
ment,’’ whether of ‘‘degraded’’ urban environments or
unhealthy working class families, created a ‘‘sanitarian’’
(Hamlin, 1998) germ politics, which separated the
‘‘dirty’’ from the ‘‘clean’’ and, in the same way,
established a welfare system that distinguished between
the ‘‘deserving’’ and the ‘‘undeserving’’ poor. Several
feminist social historians have critiqued these welfare
reform movements for their narrow race, class and
gender ‘‘maternalist’’ politics based on a particular
norm or ‘‘standard’’ as the ‘‘right’’ way to live (Baker,
1991;Mink, 1995). DuPuis (2002) shows the connection
between the rise of US food reform and welfare
movements, in which the middle class controlled both
reform agendas by universalizing particular ways of
living as ‘‘perfect.’’
As critiques of the US reform movements have noted,
this ‘‘politics of perfection’’ stems not only from a class
hegemonic politics, but also incorporates the racial
representation of whiteness as the ‘unmarked category.’
Lipsitz (1998) calls US white middle class politics ‘‘the
possessive investment in whiteness.’’ This possessive
investment has a material aspect in the monopolization
of resources, with mortgage credit and education being
two instances that Lipsitz emphasizes (See also Cohen,
2003). This is accomplished by a sleight of hand in which
institutionalized racism is hidden behind a representa-
tion of what is ‘‘normal’’, with all variations from this
norm represented as deviations. For example, a coali-
tion of white middle-class reform groups, health officials
and farmers elevated milk to the status of a ‘‘perfect
food’’ which would improve the general health of all
bodies when, in fact, milk is a culturally, genetically, and
historically specific food (DuPuis, 2002).
A reflexive local politics of food would entail taking
into account ways in which people’s notions of ‘‘right
living,’’ and especially ‘‘right eating,’’ are wrapped up in
these possessive investments in race, class and gender.
Such a politics would actively seek to expose and
undermine the tendency of specific groups to work from
this ‘‘politics of perfection’’, which universalizes and
elevates particular ways of eating as ideal when, in fact,
all eating—like all human action—is imperfect and
contradictory (Guthman and DuPuis, forthcoming).
The power and effectiveness of white middle class
reform movements—from abolition to alar—cannot be
denied. These movements have accomplished much,
especially in terms of providing US cities with water and
sewer systems, without which they would have con-
tinued to be places of extremely high mortality (Tarr,
1996;Platt, 2005). However, particularly with the rise of
a new, more fractured middle class politics in the US, it
is important to pay more attention to the ways in which
our possessive investments in our own racial privilege
influences how we define problems and solutions.
One way to do this is to consider recent reinterpreta-
tions of US history which have put race squarely at the
center of the story, particularly those histories that
examine the creation of local rural places. For example,
Matt Garcia’s A World of Its Own (2001) and Herbert’s
White Plague (1987) show how white middle classes
created systems of racial domination in California and
Texas rural localities, respectively. In fact, one of the
most shocking aspects of Matt Garcia’s history of Los
Angeles orange production regions in the early part of
the twentieth century is the juxtaposition of political
rhetoric describing orange growers as democratic yeo-
man with cheerful pictures of them dressed up in Ku
Klux Klan robes. Orange growing communities put
Hispanic workers ‘‘in their place’’ in more ways than
E.M. DuPuis, D. Goodman / Journal of Rural Studies 21 (2005) 359–371362
one, burning crosses on lawns if Hispanic families tried
to move into neighborhoods beyond the labor camps
and colonias, while allowing them to provide ‘‘ethnic’
entertainment in exclusive white supper clubs.
Needless to say, European local food movements stem
from a very different history of class, racial and
gendered relationships. Calls for the relocalization of
food systems appear to stem from a perceived need to
protect European rural economy and society from the
potentially damaging consequences of international
agricultural trade liberalization. These defensive moves
include replacement of direct production subsidies by
forms of farm income support, notably for agri-
environmental and rural development schemes, consid-
ered to be non-trade distorting under World Trade
Organization rules, the so-called ‘green box’ payments.
These changes are reinforced by a growing perception in
EU policy circles that the consumer-driven ‘turn’ to
quality has created a wider range of farm-based
livelihood opportunities for those producers who can
adopt conventions of product quality which emphasize
territorial provenance in localized socio-ecological
processes. A case in point is the UK, where re-localized,
embedded food systems are seen as a means to enhance
the competitiveness and economic and environmental
sustainability of farming. This view of local food
systems as the foundation of a more competitive,
market-oriented farming sector is articulated very
clearly in the 2002 Report of the Policy Commission
on the Future of Food and Farming, whose brief was to
formulate a new strategy for agriculture following the
2001 Foot and Mouth Disease epidemic in Britain.
Although this market-oriented approach is more
nuanced and muted elsewhere in the EU, the European
academic literature on local food systems places great
emphasis on the economic viability of new, farm-based
sources of value-added and related processes of territor-
ial valorization, as we discuss below.
However, in Europe, the rural imaginary also
embraces a distinctive European ‘‘possessive invest-
ment’’ in national traditions, although expressed in an
‘‘unmarked’’ discourse of small family farms, local
markets where producers and consumers interact,
regional food cultures, vibrant rural communities, and
ecologically diverse rural environments. In the words of
former French president, Francois Mitterand, these
constitute a ‘‘certain kind of rural civilization’’ (The
Times, 7 February, 1987). Perceptions that this civiliza-
tion is now under threat extend across the political
spectrum. In the case of France, this threat is identified
with globalization by left social movements, whereas for
the radical right it comes from immigration. These
currents also can be seen in the strange rural compro-
mise forged by the market-based, rural value-added
policies of neoliberal governments in both Italy and the
UK which, by a stroke of political alchemy, have
managed to bring both left and right agendas together
around the European rural imaginary. For example, a
neoliberal compromise in Italy can be seen in the
funding of the Slow Food Movement’s recent Terra
Madre conference: while the movement itself is led by
left-leaning Carlo Petrini, much of the funding came
from the neoliberal state and from the right-wing
National Alliance (Hooper, 2004).
To varying degrees, this rural imaginary has also had
a discernible influence in several recent contributions to
European rural sociology. It is particularly salient in the
notion of endogenous rural development, which builds
on the empirical observation that European agriculture
is entangled in a diverse constellation of socio-ecologi-
cal, economic, cultural, and historical relations. This
approach more recently has been transposed into the
proposition that the practices, new forms of economic
organization, and institutional changes associated with
the ‘turn’ to quality in food provisioning constitute a
‘‘new’’ rural development paradigm (Ploeg et al., 2000).
Its normative content is evident in the view that this new
paradigm, unlike its predecessor of agricultural moder-
nization, is ‘‘rooted in historical traditions’’ and indeed
‘‘can be understood as a kind of repeasantization of
European farming’’ (ibid, 403, original emphasis).
This diversity is conceptualized in terms of ‘styles of
farming’, and it is argued that ‘‘Europe’s countryside
(should) be safeguarded as precious ‘cultural capital’ ’’
by promoting ‘‘farming styles based on the optimal use
of local resources’’ (Ploeg and van Dijk, 1995, p. xii).
This normative position is underpinned by the claim
that ‘‘Endogenous development patterns tend to materi-
alize as self-centered processes of growth: that is,
relatively large parts of the total value generated
through this type of development are re-allocated in
the locality itself’’ (Ploeg and Long, 1994, p. 2).
A rural imaginary also infuses the characterization of
‘alternative agro-food networks’ (AAFN) and ‘short
food supply chains’’ (SFSC) as sources of resistance
against the homogenizing effects of ‘placeless’, globa-
lized, industrial modes of food provisioning and the
‘McDonaldization’ of regional food cultures (Murdoch
and Miele, 1999;Murdoch and Miele, 2002;Marsden et
al., 1999;Murdoch et al., 2000). The Slow Food
Movement and its efforts to counter the march of the
‘golden arches’ by valorizing regional cuisines and their
rural networks of provision arguably is the most
prominent expression of this oppositional, ‘militant
Unlike its US counterpart, however, the normative
idealization of the ‘rural local’—the re-localization and
re-embedding of agro-food practices in local eco-social
relations—is obscured, at least in part, by a comple-
mentary discourse of economic performance and com-
petitiveness, which has attracted policy support. As
noted earlier, the gradual re-orientation of the EU’s
E.M. DuPuis, D. Goodman / Journal of Rural Studies 21 (2005) 359–371 363
Common Agricultural Policy towards a wider notion of
rural development involving more decentralized policy-
making, multifunctionality, and territoriality has en-
hanced receptivity to this discourse (Lowe et al., 2002,
pp. 14–15). In this respect, the claims articulated earlier
to buttress the concept of endogenous rural develop-
ment re-emerge with AAFN/SFSC seen as new sources
of value added that can be retained locally and hence as
catalysts of rural economic regeneration and dynamism.
As argued elsewhere, ‘‘The ability of quality food
products to secure premium prices and so generate
excess profits is a central plank of (this) market-led,
value added model’’ (Goodman, 2004, p. 8). However,
as discussed at length below, formulations of this
market-oriented, ‘economic’ localism also occlude place
politics, not least the struggles to appropriate and
sustain the flows of economic rent arising in the ‘new
economic spaces’ created by AAFN/ SFSC (Ploeg et al.,
2000;Marsden et al., 2002;Ploeg and Renting, 2000;
Renting et al., 2003).
In keeping with this economistic analysis, the local is
framed as a site of new opportunities for value-added
generation. Thus producers are encouraged to ‘short
circuit’ industrial chains by building ‘‘new associational
networks’’ and creating ‘‘different relationships with
consumers’’ through engagement with ‘‘different con-
ventions and constructions of quality’’ that evoke
‘‘locality/region or speciality and nature’’ (Marsden et
al., 2002, p. 425). With ‘‘their capacity to re-socialize or
re-spatialize food,’’ SFSC are in a position to valorize
those qualifiers of ‘the local’ and its socio-ecological
attributes—terroir, traditional knowledge, landrace spe-
cies, for example—that can be translated into higher
prices. In this instrumental context, ‘the local’ becomes a
discursive construct and is deployed to convey meaning
at a distance, and thereby becomes a source of value.
Bluntly stated, from this perspective, the local and SFSC
are empirically and theoretically conjoined principally in
the form of economic rent, though without explicit
attention to the politics of its appropriation.
As we have noted previously, some authors discern
the contours of a new rural development paradigm in
the processes and practices that are (re-)valorizing the
local as a site of new value streams and accumulation
(Ploeg et al., 2000). This paradigm change is predicated
on a transition from the agricultural modernization
logic of economies of scale to a focus on economies of
scope (Ploeg and Renting, 2000) and a re-emphasis on
non-commoditized circuits characteristic of the ‘‘old and
well-known ‘resistance paysanne’ ’’ (Ploeg et al., 2000,
p. 403). The integration of new and traditional rural
development practices is regarded as the source of
significant ‘synergies at farm enterprise level’ as farm
households reduce their dependence on mass markets by
mobilizing on-farm resources and diversify output by re-
integrating value-adding activities into the farm produc-
tion process.
These analyses usefully remind us of the dynamism of
valorization processes. However, they do not address
the political driving forces behind the reconfiguration of
space and scale and the new forms of commodification
of territoriality. The local as an arena of political-
economic struggle and socially constructed scale of
accumulation remains an opaque category, conceptually
and empirically, a veritable black box. Territoriality, a
cipher for the local, similarly is unexamined, figured by
landscape, habitat or craft knowledge in ways which
naturalize the social relations underlying its production
and reproduction.
2. Rethinking the idea of the local: taking politics
The purpose of our critique is not to deny the local as
a powerful political force against the forces of globaliza-
tion. Our real goal is to understand how to make
localism into an effective social movement of resistance
to globalism rather than a way for local elites to create
protective territories for themselves. This requires letting
go of a local that fetishizes emplacement as intrinsically
more just. We have to move away from the idea that
food systems become just by virtue of making them local
and toward a conversation about how to make local
food systems more just.
In seeking to bring politics ‘back in’ to analyses of
local food networks, we are drawn to Amin’s (2002)
proposal for a new politics of the local. Thus he argues
for a ‘‘shift in emphasis from the politics of place to a
politics in place’’ (p. 397, original emphasis). The former
‘‘ysees cities and regions as performing a kind of
place-based politics,’’y‘‘a distinctive politics of place
based on the powers of proximity/particularity in a
world of displaced and multiscalar happenings and
power geometries’’ (pp. 396–397). Politics in place, by
contrast, is ‘‘a nonterritorial way of viewing place
politics in an age of global connectivity. Instead of
seeing political activity as unique, places might be seen
as the sites which juxtapose the varied politics—the
local, national, and global—that we find today. What
matters is this juxtaposition’’ (Amin, p. 397). The merit
of Amin’s conception is ‘‘to see political activity in
places as plural, open, and contested’’ (p. 397), thereby
avoiding the normative contradictions to which a
politics of place is prone (See also Castree, 2004).
To forge our understanding of the local as an
imperfect politics in place, we need to begin by opening
Marsden et al. (2002, p. 426) do stress that research to advance
greater understanding of the processes determining ‘‘the attribution
and allocation of economic value across the different actors in the
supply chains’’ be placed on the agenda.
E.M. DuPuis, D. Goodman / Journal of Rural Studies 21 (2005) 359–371364
up the black box of ‘‘trust’’ and ask: where does that
trust come from and is it always, intrinsically good? In
some cases, such as local food systems controlled by
organized crime, trust involves the certainty of harm if
one does not follow the rules. The historical relationship
between organized crime and New York’s Fulton Fish
Market comes immediately to mind here (New York
Times, 1997) although there are clearly many other
Trust, therefore, like all other social interaction, is
political. It is not necessarily based on equitable
relationships nor reflexive democratic processes. Yet,
the relocalization literature has tended to treat trust as
intrinsically just, another way of depoliticizing an
activity by purifying it. This ‘‘perfect’’ politics is
embedded in social narratives of salvation and degrada-
tion that have been a part of US middle class, romantic,
reformist culture since the early nineteenth century
(DuPuis, 2002;Vandergeest and DuPuis, 1995).
Instead, we seek to free food reform from its control by
consumers of a particular class and ethnicity who have
historically set the agenda for ‘‘saving’’ the food system.
In the next section of the paper, we will ‘‘depurify’’ ideas
of the local and of trust by re-admitting politics into an
understanding of food relocalization as a social move-
ment. This enables a rethinking of the local not as a
romantic move toward emancipation but as an ‘‘open’’,
inclusive and reflexive politics in place.
To do this, it is necessary to place the local food
systems debate into the larger debate over devolutionist
forms of governance. Lawrence, in an overview of new
localist forms of rural governance, lists three major
political problems that arise when decisionmaking is
moved down to what gets characterized as ‘‘the lowest
appropriate level’’ (2005, p. 5). First, localization can
simply reinforce local elites at the expense of other local
actors. Secondly, localization may be a zero-sum
solution because it can result in unproductive inter-
regional competition. Finally, localization is not neces-
sarily incompatible with globalization and may be open
to deployment in a neoliberal ‘‘glocal’’ logic (Swynge-
douw, 1997a, b). In other words, to understand the ways
in which localization can lead to inequitable conse-
quences requires understanding how it might relate to
various existing forms of power.
Interestingly, there are vast areas of work on these
three issues that have been largely ignored in the local
food studies literature. A brief overview of work in these
three areas—urban studies, regionalism, and the politics
of scale—will illustrate the power of understanding local
food systems as a politics in place.
2.1. Urban studies
The politics between city elites and their urban hinter-
land food producers in food relocalization projects has
been entirely ignored. We would argue that this is due to
a disciplinary split between urban and rural sociology,
and urban and rural geography. Rural sociologists,
perhaps not surprisingly, tend to be particularly
unfamiliar with urban sociology. While this lacuna
may have been of less significance in earlier studies of
rurality, it becomes particularly problematic in the study
of local food systems, which are characterized by
relationships both within and between the urban and
the rural. For example, there has been little attention to
the urban political interests around farmers’ markets. In
other words, if only for purely demographic reasons,
food politics, whether the ‘‘urban–rural food alliances’’
of the 1970s and 80s (McLeod, 1976;Belasco, 1993)or
today’s ‘‘food policy councils’’ are based in urban
activism. Nearly all food councils—The Kansas City
Food Circle, the Toronto Food Policy Council, etc.—
are named after the city that contains the consumers,
not the region that contains the producers. This suggests
that we need to understand the urban to understand
local food systems. Better analysis of local urban–rural
politics will lead, we believe, to less reliance on
normative—‘‘gesellshaft/gemeinshaft’’ explanations
and give greater weight to the opening up of political
A related approach to the ‘unreflexive localism’ of
European research on the quality turn would emphasize
that insofar as politics are drawn to the analytical
foreground, this place is taken by food politics whose
ethos and organization are typically urban. These
politics emerged in the 1980s to challenge the environ-
mental degradation caused by industrial agriculture,
occupy the spaces created by the withdrawal of the
nation-state from regulatory arenas, and to campaign
for healthy and safe food provision. Contemporary
expressions of these food politics include AAFN/SFSC
and the associated revival of ‘local’ food products,
regional cuisines and specialty foods. Yet, for all their
recent momentum and growing diversity, the role of
urban political interests in the articulation of these
projects and reconfigurations of the local has been
largely ignored.
While many areas of urban studies have something to
offer to the analysis of local food systems, we will review
only two subdisciplines here: community power studies
and urban environmental history.
Studies of community power began with Robert
Dahl’s historical analysis of political power in New
Haven, Connecticut (1961), continuing with John
Gaventa’s study of power and powerlessness in Appa-
lachia (1980) and most evident today in the studies of
city growth politics first initiated by Logan and Harvey
(1987). The findings of these community power studies
make it difficult to conceive of the local as the ethical
guarantor of an egalitarian ‘‘politics of care.’’ These
studies show how local elites go about controlling city
E.M. DuPuis, D. Goodman / Journal of Rural Studies 21 (2005) 359–371 365
and regional politics, although often constrained the by
increasingly global competition over economic growth.
One of the classics of urban community power
research—Dahl’s (1961) study of New Haven, Who
Governs?—demonstrates the power of elites in that city,
although the social composition of that elite group
changed over time. At first, old patrician families
maintained political control, later replaced by local
industry leaders, and then by an ethnic political regime.
While Dahl was not much interested in how city
politics affected the urban hinterland, it is worth
thinking about how each of these urban political elites
would have had significantly different relationships with
their surrounding rural brethren. Consider an urban–-
rural politics under a patrician urban regime, compared
to an ethnic urban regime. The problem and potentials
are vastly different. One interesting question worth
exploring is the difference in the interface between a
patrician, and industrial and an ethnic politics with a
rural agrarian politics. To what extent have different
political interests clashed or coincided?
So far, for US cities, urban environmental historians
have come the closest to trying to answer these
questions. They emphasize the role of local institutions,
elites and political coalitions in the creation of urban
ecosystems that relate cities to nature (Cronon, 1991).
They have shown how middle class urban consumer
reformers in the US have been a powerful political force
in the creation of modern urban ecosystems (Tarr, 1996;
Platt, 2005;DuPuis, 2004) including food systems
(DuPuis, 2002). For much of the modern urban period,
white middle class consumers—in alliance with the
growing class of government professionals—actively
supported the growth of large scale capitalist urban
provisioning systems because they saw this system as
cheaply and efficiently meeting their needs (Cohen,
2003), part of the larger Fordist ‘‘bargain’’ that defined
modes of urban livelihood provisioning. In some
periods, the agenda of urban consumer elites focused
on food safety and quality, defined as sanitation and
inspection. At other times, this agenda has included a
concern over prices, ostensibly to solve food access
problems for the poor, but also in alliance with middle
class consumers struggling with tight budgets (DuPuis,
2002). Urban elites also have sought to gain and
maintain power over their rural hinterlands for other
purposes—recreation, leisure, resource use, etc. (Van-
dergeest and DuPuis, 1995).
Now, however, this Fordist triangulation between
urban consumers, government professionals and large-
scale global capitalism—the old sanitarian Fordist
regime—has unraveled. With the disintegration of this
modern consumer–government–industrial food alliance,
some urban consumers are looking for new allies. In the
US, many of these new middle-class urban consumer
movements—particularly those inspired by Alice Waters
and Carlo Petrini—are looking to Europe—particularly
Italy and France—as a kind of ‘‘city on a hill’’ example
of a different kind of political alliance between cities and
the countryside. The extent to which European urban–
rural relationships in fact fulfill this ideal, the extent to
which they will be able to maintain this ideal as Spain
becomes the new California and Africa becomes
Europe’s global garden (Friedberg, 2004), and the
extent to which US consumers will be able to re-create
Europe in their backyards are all key questions in
understanding the contemporary politics of food
2.2. Sectional politics
We also need to recognize, as human geographers
have long understood (Harvey, 1985;Cox, 2002), that
rather than a romantic movement of resistance, localism
can be mobilized as a powerful strategy of territorial
competition between regions. For the most part,
localism is as much a protection of particular places
against other places as it is a form of resistance to some
abstract conception of ‘‘the global.’’ Two literatures are
particularly applicable here: the economic geography
literature on regional industrial competitiveness, and the
historical literature on sectionalism and regional ur-
ban–rural/farmer–consumer alliances.
In some cases, sectionalism can walk a thin line
between a regional development effort and a form of
xenophobia. For example, in California, one commer-
cial for the state cheese industry features two cows, one
of which is embarrassed because she has a spot on her
flank that resembles the state of Wisconsin. ‘‘Is that why
Marge acts so weird to me,’’ she asks her friend and
fellow cow, ‘‘because I thought it was because of the
time I backwashed in the water trough.’’ As this case
shows, sectional competition and xenophobia can
become political bedfellows. Local social movements
supporting sustainability need to ask whether there are
costs to allying themselves with xenophobic sectionalism
or ‘‘defensive localism’’ (Winter, 2003). There may also
be a cost to alliances with local elites that stand to
benefit from localization. While these may seem like
obvious points, they often get missed in homogenous
references to ‘‘community’’ and ‘‘trust’’ in the localist
discourse on food.
The prospect that greater inter-regional competition
may lead to uneven, if not zero-sum, outcomes, offers a
serious challenge to the notion of relocalization as a new
rural development paradigm in Europe as well. Thus,
Buller and Morris (2004, p. 1078) observe, ‘‘once
territoriality becomes a component of value, it also
becomes a commodity in itself, to protect and exploit, a
source of differentially commodified relationships,’’
leading to, in Marsden’s words, ‘‘new rural geographies
of value’’ (Marsden, 1999 p. 507). The dimensions and
E.M. DuPuis, D. Goodman / Journal of Rural Studies 21 (2005) 359–371366
expressions of this new competitive territoriality of
value, and its implications for processes of rural
development, are only just beginning to be explored.
Thus Marsden et al. (2002) express their misgivings that
these new rural geographies will be disequalizing,
reflecting the asymmetrical spatial distributions of
socioecological assets and competences. In this case,
the problem is that SFSC and their localized space–time
equations may be unique and resistant to replication.
This distinctiveness creates ‘‘one of the most significant
paradoxes of the new rural development paradigm’’
(p. 436), which leads these authors to urge that ‘‘we need
to progress the concept of rural development clustering’’
to ensure that SFSC ‘‘collectively make a major spatial
impact’’ (p. 436).
Agro-food studies here finds itself at a crossroads that
has generated intense debate in economic geography in
recent years. Thus one current has explored the
significance of territorially specific competences of
‘untraded dependencies’ (Storper, 1995)—notably loca-
lized knowledges and interpersonal networks and pools
of skilled labor—in generating agglomeration econo-
mies and sustaining regional economic competitiveness.
As in the SFSC literature, the individual enterprise is
placed very much at the center of the analysis. This
focus had led several leading economic geographers to
deplore what they see as a concomitant retreat from
political economy and the neglect of exploitation, power
and politics in scaling the space economy of contem-
porary capitalism (Amin and Thrift, 2002;Antipode,
Special Issue, 33(2), 2001).
Although this critique is addressed to the ‘new’
economic geography and its obsession with industrial
districts, learning regions and knowledge economies, it
usefully highlights the normative stakes at issue in
taking an enterprise-centered approach to the concept of
‘rural development clustering’. As Perrons (2001, p. 208)
observes of the ‘‘focus on the minutiae of change, in
particular linkages between firms in economic clus-
tersy’’, ‘‘These studies are very partial and the wider
consequences of economic change or firm competitive-
ness for the well-being of people in places are correspond-
ingly neglected’’ (our emphasis). One possible point of
departure, as agro-food studies ‘meets’ regional devel-
opment, is to affirm, with Cox (2002), following Harvey
(1985), the importance of ‘territorial coalitions’ in
contesting and improving local positions in the geo-
graphic division of production and consumption.
In other words, and this is a deceptively simple point,
when we attempt to implement a local food system
strategy, we need to pay attention to local institutional
interests. We need to ask: which local institutions are
more successful in promoting democratic, reflexive
localist solutions and which merely perpetuate local
inequalities? In this respect, historical scholarship on the
organization of regional institutions in American and
European political development is revealing (Sanders,
1999;Bensel, 1984). For example, Elizabeth Sanders has
examined the inter-connections between different forms
of agrarian and urban politics in several US regions, to
explain why ‘‘farmer-labor alliances’’ were more salient
in some regions than others. Using Sanders, DuPuis
(2002) and DuPuis and Block (2002) show how different
urban–rural political alliances resulted in the establish-
ment of different dairy market order policies in the
Chicago and New York milksheds. This historical
perspective on the politics of regionalism could greatly
add to the understanding of local food systems today.
For example, if the racial or ethnic composition of cities
differs significantly from the characteristics of the rural
hinterland, how will this affect potential political
alliances? Agrarian politics, at least in California, also
entails a landlord class—often living in local cities—over
and above a producer class, and the interests of this
landlord class often differ not only from those of
producers but also of other city residents (DuPuis,
2005). In these cases, the perspectives gained from urban
studies may help provide explanations for the relative
strength or weakness of urban–rural food alliances.
2.3. Localism and neoliberal globalization
Several influential social constructionist formulations
of contemporary global–local relations argue that
globalization processes are producing a new ‘‘scalar
fix’’ in the geographic division of labor of the state
(Jessop, 2000). In this reconfiguration of political scales,
the subnational and global levels are gaining promi-
nence at the expense of the nation-state, a process that
has been characterized as ‘‘glocalization’’ (Swyngedouw,
1997a, b) and the ‘‘hollowing out of the state’’ (Jessop,
1999, 2000). A number of authors (Jessop, 1998;
Lovering, 1999;Lawrence, 2005;Dean, 1999)have
suggested that the embrace of localist forms of control
‘‘are experiments in sub-national regional governance
that are themselves a response to wider problems in
managing global capitalism’’ (Lawrence, 2005, p. 3).
Relocalization can be seen as part of the restructuring of
government toward ‘‘governance’’: the devolution of
decisionmaking to local networks of self-governing
actors, coordinated through multi-layered institutional
structures. From this more critical perspective, reloca-
lization appears to be not so much in resistance to
neoliberal globalization as an intrinsic part of it, because
it has ‘‘endorsed and fostered the self regulation of
individuals and communities which, at the regional
level, equates to the acceptance of programs, techniques
and procedures that support market rule, productivism
and global competition’’ (Lawrence, 2005, p. 9). In other
words, relocalization can be part and parcel of what
Dean (1999), using Foucault, calls ‘‘neoliberal govern-
E.M. DuPuis, D. Goodman / Journal of Rural Studies 21 (2005) 359–371 367
In the face of these new arguments about global
governance, the presumption that localization intrinsi-
cally stands as a force against globalization seems, at
best, naive. In fact, in the absence of specific case-
studies, it is arguable that localization most recently has
been deployed to further a neoliberal form of global
logic, a refashioning of agricultural governance that
plays on both left ideals of political participation and
right ideals of non-interference in markets (See also
Allen et al., 2003). This is a dangerous political bargain,
which in other arenas has lead to the dismantling of
hard-fought government institutional capacities in
utility regulation, anti-trust and the state protection of
citizens’ health and welfare.
It would be equally presumptious, of course, to argue
that all localism is the handmaiden of neoliberalism.
However, only by looking at the local as a ‘‘politics in
place’’ is it possible to understand the ways in which
localism is deployed for or against global forces.
3. Conclusion: local politics as the new politics of scale
The largely apolitical approach to place construction
in the agro-food literature on the quality ‘turn’ and local
food systems contrasts vividly with the lively debates on
the politics of space and place found in human
geography. These debates bring out the importance of
spatial and scalar political processes in the social
construction of place, emphasize the contingent nature
of sociospatial structures and scalar orderings, and
direct analytical attention to the ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ in
these struggles. Agro-food studies could draw inspira-
tion from the literature on the ‘‘new politics of scale.’’
The new politics of scale (NPS) ‘‘refers to the produc-
tion, reconfiguration or contestation of particular
differentiations, orderings, and hierarchies among geo-
graphical scales’’y‘‘the referent here is thus the process
of scaling,’’ (Brenner, 2001, p. 600 original emphasis).
The contested social constructedness of scale also leads
to recognition of what Agnew (1999, p. 504) calls the
‘‘historicity of spatiality’’: the changes over time in the
‘‘geographical embeddedness of power relationships’’ (p.
512; cited in Amin, 2002, p. 386).
Despite its potential complementarity, the agro-food
literature on local food systems curiously has ignored
this challenging body of work in human geography.
Indeed, the quality ‘turn’ literature takes the ontology of
the local as given, not as a category to be explicated in
terms of societal processes. This stance is certainly
idiosyncratic, if not myopic, when ‘‘The proposition that
geographical scale is socially constructed (is) an estab-
lished truism within contemporary human geography’’
(Brenner, 2001, p. 592, original emphasis). In this
perspective, territories and scales are ‘‘contested social
constructions’’ (Herod, 1991, p. 84, original emphasis)
and the ontology of scale, from the ‘local’ to the ‘global’,
is not preordained but can be reconfigured through
socio-political struggle (Smith, 1993;Swyngedouw,
1997a, b).
AAFN/SFSC scholarship could productively engage
with the socio-spatial practices of scale construction to
theorize the contested processes constituting the local
and the dynamic interaction between local forms of
socio-spatial organization and translocal actors and
institutions. Instead, the local in agro-food studies is
currently taken for granted as a ‘purified’ category and
treated as a context or locale that is conducive to the
emergence of new economic forms incorporating ‘alter-
native’ social norms.
Several recent debates in ‘critical’ human geography
reveal lines of theoretical enquiry that may be helpful in
overcoming the neglect of place politics and socio-
spatial processes in agro-food studies and the reification
of the local and localism. A recent essay by Castree
(2004) examines the ideas of place that ‘‘seem to have
become axiomatic for a cohort of critical human
geographers’’ (p. 135) and their shared premise that
outward-looking connectivities and translocal ties en-
gender and characterize a progressive politics of place.
This normative position is based on ‘‘the idea that a
geographical politics that proactively weds agendas in
one place to those in myriad others—what Katz (2001,
p. 724) calls a ‘‘rooted translocalism’’—is to be preferred
to one that is ‘‘place-bound’’ (Castree, 2004, p. 135).
This cohort, represented in Castree’s paper by David
Harvey, Doreen Massey and Michael Watts, has worked
assiduously to discredit bounded or self-enclosed con-
cepts of place often associated with these ‘purified,’
discrete representations. In contesting ‘‘attempts to put
‘strong’ boundaries around places—that is, to enclose
peoples, resources or knowledges within a ‘local’
domain’’ (Castree, 2004, p. 135), this cohort has
formulated a relational conception of place based on
the ontological claim that ‘‘translocal tiesyin part
constitute those places.’’ As Castree (2004, p. 134) puts
it, their ‘‘relational imaginaries together contest a view
of places as ‘‘locations of distinct coherence’’ (Massey,
1999, p. 14). Instead, they depict place as ‘‘nodes in
relational settings’’ (Amin, 2002, p. 391), as ‘‘specific yet
globalized sites’’ (Watts, 1991, p. 10) and as ‘‘articulated
moments in networks’’ (Massey, 1994, p. 5).’’ These
dynamic, relational conceptualizations of place promise
greater analytical purchase than the current presump-
tion in agro-food studies that the ontology of place is
given ‘in the order of things’.
These human geographers are very much aware
of the dangers of an uncritical celebration of ‘local’
Although not detailed here, Castree (2004) rejects the axiomatic
force of this ‘shibboleth’ by drawing on the politics of the global
indigenous peoples movement and assessing their ‘strong’ place claims.
E.M. DuPuis, D. Goodman / Journal of Rural Studies 21 (2005) 359–371368
place-projects, and several have raised the specter of
‘geographical fetishism’ (Castree, 2004;Watts, 1999).
Similarly, in the ‘new’ industrial geography literature,
with its emphasis on localized knowledge and inter-
personal relations, Amin and Cohendet (1999) have
warned against ‘spatial fetishization’ in accounts of
socio-spatial embeddedness, which tend to exaggerate
the autonomy of the local. As we have seen the pitfalls
of ‘defensive localism’ also have been well-rehearsed in
agro-food studies. However, this critique would be more
incisive if it explored the far more extensive literature on
place-making and spatial politics in critical human
The relevance of the NPS for explorations of power
and politics in local food systems lies in the centrality it
gives to social struggle and contestation in the making of
place and scale. This analytical focus also undermines
reductionist global-local binaries and the tendency to
concede the global as the domain of capital while
paradoxically framing the local as a site of empower-
ment (Herod and Wright, 2002). This emphasis on
contested socio-spatial processes draws on the wider
point that ‘‘Interests are constituted at many different
scales and contest scale divisions of labor that are
equally varied and equally subject to redefinition’’ (Cox,
2002, p. 106). Leitner (2004) makes a related observation
when discussing differences in the NPS literature on the
conceptualization of power and its location. Thus some
constructivist studies of scale ‘‘conceptualize power as
located exclusively in capitalist production relations,’’
whereas others locate it ‘‘in a range of actors and
institutions multiply situated in economic, political and
cultural contexts, with different stakes and ideologies’’
(Leitner, 2004, p. 240). She goes on to suggest that ‘‘we
need to conceptualize the politics of scale as only one
dimension of a broader notion of spatial politics’’
(p. 237) in order to grasp the different spatialities and
power relations associated with distinct socio-spatial
projects (See also Cox, 1998a, b). These debates in
human geography are active and ongoing but hopefully
the preceding discussion has demonstrated their rele-
vance for research on the quality ‘turn’ and local food
This paper has cautioned against the reification of the
local found in normative and market-oriented perspec-
tives and their naturalization as a bulwark against
anomic global capitalism. Bringing politics into the
conversation allows us to abandon the ‘‘either-or’’
approach (Harvey, 2001) that has characterized local–
global politics up to now. An inclusive and reflexive
politics in place would understand local food systems
not as local ‘‘resistance’’ against a global capitalist
‘‘logic’’ but as a mutually constitutive, imperfect,
political process in which the local and the global make
each other on an everyday basis. In this more ‘‘realist’’
open-ended story, actors are allowed to be reflexive
about both their own norms and about the structural
economic logics of production.
In this respect, we find strong parallels between our
concept of a democratic consumption politics and the
democratic production politics articulated in Guthman’s
(2004) vision of ‘‘process’’ vs. ‘‘standards’’ organic. Here
she is drawing a distinction based on Harvey’s embrace
of a ‘‘utopia of process’’ rather than a ‘‘traditional’’
standards utopian vision. How to make localism an
open, process-based vision (Young, 2000), rather than a
fixed set of standards, is one of the major challenges the
alternative food systems movement faces today.
We would like to acknowledge the Agro-Food Studies
Research Group at UCSC (particularly Julie Guthman,
Margaret Fitzsimmons, Patricia Allen, Mike Goodman
and Bill Friedland) and its discussions of localism. The
paper also benefited greatly from the comments of
participants in the Local Development Strategies in
Food Supply Chains at the XI World Congress of Rural
Sociology, Trondheim, Norway, where portions of this
paper were first presented. We would like to thank Terry
Marsden who initiated the invitation to that conference,
and the Center for Rural Research, Trondheim, Nor-
way, for its financial support.
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... The main purpose of the research will be to understand the existing interactions between these farming systems and the socio-economic context in which they emerge. More than the technical dimension of sustainable farming systems, it is intended here to discuss the strong link between the localization of food systems and the promotion of social justice and environmental sustainability (DuPuis & Goodman, 2005;Duru, Therond, & Fares, 2015). ...
... Nonetheless, the concept of territorial embeddedness (Therond et al., 2017) comes very promising for identifying relations beyond the commercial/globalised dimension. Localization is being perceived as an emergent concept and may well be of great importance here (Bowen & De Master, 2014;DuPuis & Goodman, 2005). Likewise, CSA -Community Supported Agriculture (Robert-Demontrond et al., 2017), both of these late concepts relating to a strong socio-political bottom-up territorial movement. ...
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This communication aims to present a PhD research project in its early stage. It intends therefore on discussing the main questions posed, the main goals established, and the main methodologies foreseen in order to foment a debate about its merits and in this way allow further improvements to be made while still in the designing phase of the research. The research project here presented aims to shed light on current sustainable farming practices that are established around alternative agri-food systems and to analyze how these practices (re)connect to the territory. In other words, it aims to help understand how these environmentally friendly farming practices interact with their socioeconomic and cultural contexts, and how can local communities benefit from their presence. It should be pointed out that the existing literature examining the "empirical foundations for place-based agriculture" is scarce (Chapman et al., 2017). And on the other hand, sustainable farming practices' studies are most frequently focused either on the biotechnical functioning of the systems or on the social-political movements they represent, but "they do not explicitly consider how farming systems interact with their socioeconomic environment" (Therond et al., 2017). Regarding the methodology, a mixed methods research strategy is envisaged, integrating both qualitative and quantitative methods but still keeping a focus on inductive and interpretative approaches. Being the main goal of this research to expand the current understanding of the territorial integration of agroecological practices, a case-study instrument, supported by personal interviews, will be used. Later, an action-research method will be applied in order to debate and prioritize the most relevant activities that could be undertaken toward an agroecological transition. Outcomes are expected in the form of governance guides for decision-makers and practitioners, and for academia, in the form of scientific research papers providing a deeper understanding of the territorial integration of alternative sustainable farming practices.
... L'intérêt de ces circuits est encore plus marqué car ils tendent à s'inscrire dans le paradigme du développement durable, tant du point de vue économique (maintien des exploitations agricoles, renforcement de l'économie régionale par la création d'emplois et de retour fiscal, etc.), qu'environnemental (réduction des « kilomètres alimentaires » et, partant de l'émission des gaz à effet de serre, soutien d'une agriculture respectueuse de l'environnement) et social (création de liens sociaux, instauration de principes de loyauté et de confiance entre producteurs et consommateurs, soutien aux agriculteurs locaux, revalorisation du métier de paysan, limitation des situations d'exclusion et de marginalisation, etc.) (Todorović et al., 2018 ;Chevallier et al., 2014 ;Chiffoleau, 2012 ;Chiffoleau, Degenne, 2010). Ces circuits de proximité sont toutefois critiqués par certains auteurs, qui dénoncent des formes d'inégalité et de domination hégémonique au sein de ces systèmes alimentaires locaux (DuPuis, Goodman, 2005), qui relèvent que ceux-ci ne sont pas nécessairement durables, viables et équitables (Forney, Häberli, 2016 ;Born, Purcell, 2006 ;Allen et al., 2003) ou qui attestent du fait que les effets multiplicateurs sur l'économie régionale sont finalement relatifs (Tregear, 2011), Parmi les éléments composites de ces S3A, les circuits courts occupent une place prépondérante. Définis communément comme un circuit de distribution comportant au maximum un intermédiaire entre le producteur et le consommateur, ils peuvent prendre plusieurs formes : vente directe sur l'exploitation, marché forain ou classique, système de paniers, point de vente collectif, ou encore vente par internet. ...
La mise en œuvre de circuits alimentaires de proximité pour fournir la restauration collective, si elle répond aux enjeux du développement durable, n’en demeure pas moins entravée par de nombreux obstacles. Ainsi, les différentes dimensions de la proximité (notamment relationnelle et identitaire) et les éléments d’ordre logistique constituent de véritables freins que les parties prenantes peinent parfois à débloquer. La recherche présentée s’appuie sur une démarche qualitative conduite auprès de onze représentants de restaurants collectifs et a pour objectif 1) de rendre compte de ces contraintes dans l’Arc jurassien suisse et 2) de saisir les leviers que ces restaurateurs actionnent pour instaurer ou renforcer des circuits alimentaires de proximité.
... This conceptualisation of local food has marked much of European-based AFN research, in connection with rural development objectives (e.g., see Gilg & Battershill, 1998;Marsden et al., 2000). In both cases, however, an excessive focus on the local dimension has been critiqued for obscuring uncertainties associated with meeting social and environmental objectives (Alkon, 2008;DuPuis & Goodman, 2005;Schoolman et al., 2021). Finally, there is still no established way to quantify 'localness' (Schmitt et al., 2018), with different sources and policy instruments giving different definitions. ...
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The special issue titled ‘Values‐based Territorial Food Networks – Benefits, challenges and controversies’ and this introductory editorial aim to bridge conceptual and disciplinary differences within the literature on alternative agro‐food networks and related concepts. In the editorial we outline a new umbrella term, Values‐based Territorial Food Networks (VTFNs), which synthesises the key commonalities that characterise alternatives to the mainstream food system. VTFNs are defined as networks that connect agro‐food and related stakeholders within a defined territory that operate according to a coherent set of ethical values centred on social justice and wellbeing, environmental integrity, participatory governance and economic fairness. We discuss how VTFNs relate to earlier concepts, showing the evolution from ‘alternative’ to ‘values based’, from ‘local’ to ‘territorial’ and from ‘supply chains’ to ‘networks’. The editorial also gives an overview of the empirical case studies in the special issue, which explore 10 place‐based food initiatives (from Austria, France, Greece, Germany, The Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Hungary, Australia, Brazil and Japan) and address benefits, challenges, social learning and controversies associated with VTFNs. The cases are grouped into three thematic areas. ‘Social learning and resilience’ focuses on collaboration through diverse partnerships as a necessary condition for social innovation and for understanding new socio‐technical practices. ‘Agency, negotiations and food governance’ explores the socioeconomic struggles, interrelations and negotiated values associated with VTFNs. ‘Sociocultural environments, social capital and reflexive localism’ discusses the interplay between the economic and sociocultural dimensions related to VTFNs. The transversality of VTFN allows us to think about these dimensions from a systemic perspective, thus advancing debates on the diverse sites and modes of agro‐food sustainability.
... Neoliberal urban regimes have compromised the ability of governments to meet people's needs regarding food and people have responded by organising on a local scale. In both Europe and the US, food activists have argued that local solutions resist the injustice that industrial capitalism produces (DuPuis & Goodman, 2005). However, there has also been some frustration with the lack of attention to social justice within the alternative agrifood movement itself. ...
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As an essential urban matter, food has always been highly relevant in issues of social and environmental justice. Current debates around food call for a better understanding of the relationship between global and local food production and social and environmental justice. Specifically, discussions on urban greening concepts are considering whether and how social justice and sustainability goals can be achieved. This has become a pressing issue due to a growing awareness of negative effects and social imbalances in the production, consumption, and disposal of food. The article explores the normative foundations and constructions of “good and just food” that are considered appropriate to a sustainable food system and the power techniques related to personal and environmental responsibility that feature in the work of the German food policy councils seeking to initiate a transformation process. Using a governmentality approach based on Foucault, this article seeks to fill gaps in the literature regarding food policy councils and, thereby, contribute to our understanding of the local manifestations of global policy projects that address environmental and social justice in green cities.
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Diante da transição do regime alimentar em direção a um modelo mais sustentável, que busca harmonizar a produção e distribuição, tem-se observado o surgimento de experiências locais que propõem formas alternativas de distribuir os alimentos. Sendo assim, este estudo tem por objetivo compreender a formação das Redes Alimentares Alternativas, analisando o caso da Central de Comercialização da Agricultura Familiar e Economia Solidária no Rio Grande do Norte. As fontes utilizadas foram: documentos e entrevistas semiestruturadas com agricultores, consumidores e a gestora da organização. A partir dessas informações, foi possível descrever a atuação da CECAFES no ano de 2017. A experiência, apesar de recente, apresenta impactos positivos para os produtores. Foi possível constatar que esses conseguiram romper com a dependência em relação ao atravessador; os produtores são conduzidos a fornecer produtos mais confiáveis, com o objetivo de atender a demanda do seu consumidor; esses agricultores gozam de maior independência financeira, dado que eles recebem maior parte do dinheiro no curto prazo. No entanto, apesar do êxito da Central, ainda são muitos os desafios, tais como a falta de políticas públicas que potencializem a experiência; problemas relacionados a sazonalidade dos produtos; o consumidor ainda não é devidamente consciente; bem como há a ausência de campanhas com o objetivo de incentivar o consumo de produtos oriundos da agricultura familiar. Palavras-chaves: Redes alimentares alternativas. CECAFES. Agricultores. Consumidores.
Outside of the Global North, where agri-food systems have not yet consolidated into a ‘funnel shape,’ what makes an urban provisioning actor ‘alternative’ is not always clear. In this paper, I use members’ own definitions, emphases, and arguments to differentiate ‘alternative’ networks from other provisioning actors. Using data from semi-structured interviews, I show that while community-building and an affiliation with the food movement (broadly defined) are the most critical features identified by people who participate in these networks, more informal, ad hoc, familial or village networks that are utilized as a response to urban food insecurity are excluded. While such exclusions may not be unique, in this case, they reflect more fundamental divisions regarding what ‘alternative’ implies and how to challenge the throttling hold of conventional provisioning agents on the contemporary agri-food system.
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Desde ya hace algunos años se instaló, tanto en el ámbito académico como en el político, la idea-fuerza de consolidar los sistemas de abastecimiento local como propuesta orientada a la transformación del sistema agroalimentario hegemónico. Este referencial de ideas reconoce varios antecedentes conceptuales y empíricos, no solo a nivel internacional sino también en Argentina. Cobra impulso a fines de 2019 dentro de los programas enmarcados en el Plan Argentina contra el Hambre y otras acciones gubernamentales. El propósito de este artículo es trazar un recorrido conceptual por la temática y considerar algunos de los instrumentos puestos en marcha en el bienio 2020-2021, en una búsqueda por identificar las potencialidades y debates que suscitan.
Chapter 1 describes the motivations, diversity and growth of food resistance movements. Food resistance movements resist capitalist processes that perpetuate social and environmental injustices. This chapter contextualises food resistance movements within alternative food network literature. It recognises four key trajectories: alternative food networks from Europe, North America, the Global South, and social welfare approaches. Food resistance movements seek to establish alternatives that prioritise social justice and environmental sustainability values that go beyond elitist, individualist, racist and capitalist approaches. This book focuses on urban-based food resistance movements, representing potentially powerful sites for social mobilisation, experimentation and impactful solutions. After introducing the book’s case studies, this chapter situates the research approach in cultural anthropology to give a holistic and direct voice to participants from these diverse practices.
In this engaging inquiry, originally published in 1989 and now fully updated for the twenty-first century, Warren J. Belasco considers the rise of the "countercuisine" in the 1960s, the subsequent success of mainstream businesses in turning granola, herbal tea, and other "revolutionary" foodstuffs into profitable products; the popularity of vegetarian and vegan diets; and the increasing availability of organic foods.
This chapter discusses the politics of multiculturalism as a kind of identity politics. It argues the concept of structural difference, as distinct from cultural group. Analysing structural difference and structural inequality, then, helps to show why these movements are not properly interpreted as identity politics. The chapter defines social structure, and more specifically structural inequality, by rebuilding elements from different accounts. Norms of inclusive communicative democracy require that claims directed at a public with the aim of persuading members of that public that injustices occur must be given a hearing, and require criticism of those who refuse to listen. Common good theorists no doubt fear that attending to group differences in public discussion endangers commitment to co-operative decision-making. Only explicit and differentiated forms of inclusion can diminish the occurrence of such refusals, especially when members of some groups are more privileged in some or many respects.
Who gets to breathe clean air? Who benefits from the cheaper products produced with dirty air? The answers, as the contributors to Smoke and Mirrors tell us, are sometimes as gray as the air itself. From the coal factory chimneys in Manchester in the late nineteenth century to the smog hanging over Los Angeles in the late twentieth century, air pollution has long been one of the greatest threats to our environment. In this important collection of original essays, the leading environmental scientists and social scientists examine the politics of air pollution policies and help us to understand the ways these policies have led to, idiosyncratic, effective, ineffective, and even disastrous choices about what we choose to put into and take out of the air. Offering historical, contemporary and cross-national perspectives, this volume provides a refreshing new approach to understanding how air pollution policies have evolved over time.
In an era of escalating food politics, many believe organic farming to be the agrarian answer. In this first comprehensive study of organic farming in California, Julie Guthman casts doubt on the current wisdom about organic food and agriculture, at least as it has evolved in the Golden State. Refuting popular portrayals of organic agriculture as a small-scale family farm endeavor in opposition to "industrial" agriculture, Guthman explains how organic farming has replicated what it set out to oppose.