The World Food Crisis in Historical Perspective

The “world food crisis” of 2007-08 was the tip of an iceberg. Hunger and food crises are endemic to the modern world, and the eruption of a rapid increase in food prices provided a fresh window on this cultural fact. Much like Susan George’s well-known observation that famines represent the final stage in an extended process of deepening vulnerability and fracturing of social reproduction mechanisms, this food “crisis” represents the magnification of a long-term crisis of social reproduction stemming from colonialism, and was triggered by neoliberal capitalist development.1

The colonial era set in motion an extractive relation between Europe and the rest of the world, whereby the fruits of empire displaced non-European provisioning systems, as the colonies were converted into supply zones of food and raw materials to fuel European capitalism.

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