The Political Economy of Food – towards an entropy-based systems analysis of the current crisis and its solution

The Political Economy of Food – towards an entropy-based systems analysis of the current crisis and its solution

Panel on Marxist political economy at the conference of AHE, FAPE and IIPPE, Paris 5-8 July 2012

Robert Biel, University College London

Abstract

Of all the aspects of the current crisis, probably the most fundamental is that it calls into question the continuing capacity of the capitalist mode of production to feed the world’s people. Building on Marx’s understanding of the destruction of the soil as an intrinsic tendency within the ongoing development of capitalism, the paper seeks to show how this insight can be enriched through the addition of complementary tools from systems analysis, including the conception of entropy as loss of structure and degeneration into a homogenised equilibrium; complexity theory can similarly enable us to integrate into this model recent research on the loss of the soil’s self-organising capacities (such as fungal and bacterial networks) through the introduction of chemical inputs. This perspective, the paper argues, can contribute to an understanding of the underlying causes and dynamic of the current capitalist crisis. It can also help us to envisage a normative solution. The paper therefore concludes by tracing the the history and main characteristics of an alternative, socially-radical, theory and practice of low-input, low- impact agriculture. Using the case study of London, the paper discusses the outines of a system of urban food production. For full text click here: Biel_Political_Economy_of_Food_2012

 

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