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Food as Commons or Commodity? Exploring the Links between Normative Valuations and Agency in Food Transition

José Luis Vivero-Pol ()
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José Luis Vivero-Pol: Biodiversity Governance Research Unit (BIOGOV), Center for the Philosophy of Law (CPDR), Universite Catholique of Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve 1348, Belgium

Sustainability, 2017, vol. 9, issue 3, 1-23

Abstract: The food system, the most important driver of planetary transformation, is broken. Therefore, seeking a sustainable and socially-fair transition pathway out of this crisis becomes an issue of utmost priority. The consideration of food as a commodity, a social construct that played a central role in this crisis, remains the uncontested narrative to lead the different transition pathways, which seems rather contradictory. By exploring the normative values on food, this paper seeks to understand how relevant is the hegemonic narrative of food as commodity and its alternative of food as commons to determine transition trajectories and food policy beliefs. Applying the multi-level perspective framework and developing the ill-studied agency in transition, this research enquired food-related professionals that belong to an online community of practice ( N = 95) to check whether the valuation of food is relevant to explain personal stances in transition. Results suggest that the view of food as commodity is positively correlated with a gradually-reforming attitude, whereas food as commons is positively correlated with the counter-hegemonic transformers, regardless of the self-defined position in the transition landscape (regime or niches). At a personal level, there are multiple loci of resistance with counter-hegemonic attitudes in varied institutions of the regime and the innovative niches, many of them holding this discourse of food as commons. Conversely, alter-hegemonic attitudes are not positively correlated with the alternative discourse, and they may inadvertently or purportedly reinforce the neoliberal narrative. Food as commons seems to be a relevant framework that could enrich the multiple transformative constituencies that challenge the industrial food system and therefore facilitate the convergence of movements that reject the commodification of food.

Keywords: food valuation; food as commons; food as commodity; transition theory; narratives of transition; agency in transition; transformative agency; counter-hegemonic attitudes; gradual reformers (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: Q Q0 Q2 Q3 Q5 Q56 O13 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2017
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