Community restaurants: decommodifying food as socialist strategy

Selwyn, Benjamin (2020) Community restaurants: decommodifying food as socialist strategy. Socialist Register, 57. ISSN 0081-0606

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The outbreak of Covid-19 has exacerbated many of the system’s worst aspects. In the UK, the birthplace of free wage-labour based capitalist agriculture, the pandemic has exacerbated existing food inequities. The pandemic has stimulated discussions about how to remedy the world’s corporate-dominated food system. The most popular alternative visions propose shifting production and consumption away from meat increasingly to plant-based diets produced according to agro-ecological principles. Whilst these approaches could be part of a broader solution, so far they have tended to eschew explaining the food system’s inequities in class-relational terms.

This essay argues that the root problems of the contemporary food system are three-fold: (1) it is rooted in, and depends upon, the commodification of labour, food, and natural resources (including land); (2) that these commodities are subordinate to capitalism’s endless drive of exploitation-based accumulation; and (3) that the food system itself incorporates, and contributes to reproducing, these dynamics throughout the wider capitalist system. Facilitating healthy, increasingly plant-based diets should be part and parcel of a socialist agenda.

What might an emergent alternative food system look like? How could it decommodify food in order to reduce labouring class market dependence while enhancing workers’ health? How could it increase workers’ democratic control over its production, distribution and consumption? How could it reduce race and gender inequalities? How could the construction of such an alternative system facilitate political alliance building amongst oppressed and exploited groups? How could it enable workers’ organizations to encroach upon the power of capital? This essay suggests that community restaurants, serving free and cheap food, represent a socialist demand that can fulfil the above criteria.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Global Studies > International Relations
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SWORD Depositor: Mx Elements Account
Depositing User: Mx Elements Account
Date Deposited: 14 Jan 2021 10:41
Last Modified: 16 Apr 2021 10:35

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