Food Regimes and Food Regime Analysis: A Selective Survey

18 May 2015

This paper aims to provide a systematic albeit selective survey of food regimes and food regime analysis since the seminal article by Harriet Friedmann and Philip McMichael in 1989 and further traced through their subsequent (individual) work.

It identifies eight key elements or dimensions of food regime analysis, namely the international state system; international divisions of labour and patterns of trade; the ‘rules’ and discursive (ideological) legitimations of different food regimes; relations between agriculture and industry, including technical and environmental change in farming; dominant forms of capital and their modalities of accumulation; social forces (other than capitals and states); the tensions and contradictions of specific food regimes; and transitions between food regimes.

These are used to discuss and summarise three food regimes in the history of world capitalism to date: a first regime from 1870 to 1914, a second regime from 1945-1973, and a third corporate food regime from the 1980s proposed by McMichael within the period of neoliberal globalisation. Issues of theory, method and evidence are noted in the course of the exposition and pulled together in a final section assessing the achievements of food regime analysis and some of its problems.