Capitalism, food, and social movements: The political economy of food system transformation

Eric Holt-Giménez | 08.28.2019

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Do foodies need to know about capitalism? Everybody trying to change the food system—farmers, farmworkers, chefs, people fighting
to end hunger and diet-related disease—all of us need to know about capitalism. Why? Because we have a capitalist food system. After all, you wouldn’t start farming without knowing something about growing plants, or start a website without knowing something about computers, or fix the roof on a house without knowing something about carpentry. I know, most of us are too busy trying to solve problems within the food system to sit around analyzing the food system as a whole. We concentrate on one or two issues—healthy food access, organic agriculture, GMO labeling, pesticide poisoning, seed sovereignty… The list is long. On top of that, we don’t really talk about capitalism in capitalist countries. Before the 2008 financial crash, it was awkward even to mention the term ‘capitalism.’ But the truth is our food and capitalism have co-evolved over the last 200 years. If we want to know about our food system, we have to know about capitalism. That way, we can change it.

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Cover photo by David Shankbone (CC BY 2.0).