Trumping our Values?

The rise of Trump and Brexit has seen an embrace of protectionism and anti-globalisation, in a way that has potentially surprised many food activists who have long been working to counter the impetus of neoliberal policy. The agenda for unfettered freetrade has created many challenges for our food system, from excessive carbon footprints to the weakening of regulations on chemical inputs. Food activists champion the need to relocalise our food systems and take back power from corporates, often under the banner of achieving ‘Food Sovereignty’. So how can we now understand this repositioning of political agendas? Might Food Sovereignty activists in the US suddenly find an ally in Trump? This seems unlikely given his corporate perigree, but the clear challenges he poses to a globalising neoliberal agenda offer some pause for thought. The pessimist in me sees that even if neoliberalism as we knew it is now being undone, this doesn’t mean that elites and ‘the capitalist class’ are relinquishing any of their power. This is then clearly at odds with a Food Sovereignty agenda. However, the spaces of possibility opening up and the new lines of fracture emerging in our political and physical food landscapes deserve close attention as this all unfolds. Moreover, the values framework is once again proving its worth as a tool to assess these chaotic shifts. For instance, if we compare the values underpinning the rationale of Food Sovereignty activists with those now being expressed by Trump we see clear dischord, (security v’s equality for instance) even if the actual proposals for re-localising control have some overlaps. In our work over the last year we have been trying to explore the values that different actors can hold in common, even when their agendas are apparently oposed. Working with attention to values can help us come together, to realise what we have in common, to start conversations. The problem I see with the current political discourse around protectionism is it is doing the opposite.

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One thought on “Trumping our Values?

  1. Given that much of the stance of protectionism looks like it will become a political lie, what about the possibility of our re-enunciating it in Food Values terms — in other words, reclaiming that language? For example, there’s so much room for a Food Sovereignty approach to speak about protecting our farmers and their livelihoods, the rural communities that depend on farming, protecting eaters and consumers from the unsafe profit motives of faraway corporations, etc… And of course, protection our protections. The discourse on the problems for production with “regulation” of course absolutely neglects the flip side here, consumer and environmental protections, precautionary principles, etc. There’s also I think huge room to talk about communities and strengthening internal bonds, working together locally, helping each other through a time of larger national and international abandonment. I could go on. … I really like the piece above, very well written.

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