Exploring values-based modes of production and consumption in the corporate food regime

FWF Young Independent Research Group

The current agricultural and food system is dominated by transnational corporations that are based on competition, economic growth and the maximization of profits. This corporate food regime is contested by social movements and producers, which are often locally based and aim for a more sustainable production based on values such as solidarity or trust. In our research project, we focus on those small- and mid-scale initiatives that we understand as values-based modes of production and consumption. Our two concrete examples are community supported agriculture (CSA) and regional food chains. We are interested in the question to what extend these small- and mid-scale bottom-up initiatives have the potential to change the corporate food regime (i.e. the dominant value chains in food production).

Key aim

Our key aim is to analyze small- and mid-scale initiatives and how they work to change corporate power and the state in relation to the corporate food regime.

  1. The project develops a common theoretical framework how to understand these values-based initiatives combining, and thus refining food regime theory with other theoretical approaches that encompass state theory, social capital and territoriality. This allows us to examine the initiatives on a local scale but at the same time embeds them in the broader national and global debate.
  2. We further develop a methodological toolkit of how to study these initiatives and their incorporated values.
  3. We examine cases of CSA and regional food chains in Switzerland, the Czech Republic and Argentina.
  4. The project monitors and evaluates the research process including reflections on mutual learning within the interdisciplinary research team.

Three main advantages

First, the team is committed to a close-knit interdisciplinary research process combining insights from Political Sciences, Sociology and Geography. This allows for a theoretical ‘re-structuring’ of food regime considering the shared values among producers, processors and consumers and their institutionally embeddedness on the local, the national and the global scale. 

Second, to account for the explicit inclusion of the social and emotional, we develop a methodological toolkit. In doing so, we use a combination of qualitative methods – interviews, participant observation and group discussions – to analyze which values (such as solidarity or trust) underlie the restructuration of the supply chains. To account for an analysis of emotional anchoring, the new concept of viscerality (i.e. the connection between rational and emotional thinking and acting) is applied.

Third, the cases from Argentina, the Czech Republic and Switzerland offer fundamentally different contexts, allowing for an evaluation of the conclusions drawn from our theoretical and methodological work.

Project details