Food crises, food regimes and food movements: rumblings of reform or tides of transformation?

J Peasant Stud. 2011;38(1):109-44. doi: 10.1080/03066150.2010.538578.


This article addresses the potential for food movements to bring about substantive changes to the current global food system. After describing the current corporate food regime, we apply Karl Polanyi's 'double-movement' thesis on capitalism to explain the regime's trends of neoliberalism and reform. Using the global food crisis as a point of departure, we introduce a comparative analytical framework for different political and social trends within the corporate food regime and global food movements, characterizing them as 'Neoliberal', 'Reformist', 'Progressive', and 'Radical', respectively, and describe each trend based on its discourse, model, and key actors, approach to the food crisis, and key documents. After a discussion of class, political permeability, and tensions within the food movements, we suggest that the current food crisis offers opportunities for strategic alliances between Progressive and Radical trends within the food movement. We conclude that while the food crisis has brought a retrenchment of neoliberalization and weak calls for reform, the worldwide growth of food movements directly and indirectly challenge the legitimacy and hegemony of the corporate food regime. Regime change will require sustained pressure from a strong global food movement, built on durable alliances between Progressive and Radical trends.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Diet* / economics
  • Diet* / ethnology
  • Diet* / history
  • Food Industry / economics
  • Food Industry / education
  • Food Industry / history
  • Food Supply* / economics
  • Food Supply* / history
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • International Agencies / economics
  • International Agencies / history
  • International Cooperation / history
  • Internationality* / history
  • Mortality* / ethnology
  • Mortality* / history
  • Political Systems / history
  • Public Health* / economics
  • Public Health* / education
  • Public Health* / history
  • Social Change* / history
  • Starvation / economics
  • Starvation / ethnology
  • Starvation / history