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Journal of Rural Studies 21 (2005) 359371


www.elsevier.com/locate/jrurstud

Deberamos ir a casa para comer ?: hacia una poltica reflexiva del localismo
E. Melanie DuPuisa,, David Goodmanb
a
Department of Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA, USA
b
Environmental Studies, UC Santa Cruz, CA, USA

Abstract
"Venir a casa a comer" [Nabhan, 2002. Viene a casa a comer: los placeres y la poltica de los alimentos locales. Norton, Nueva York] se ha convertido
en una llamada de clarn entre los activistas de movimiento alternativo de alimentos. La mayora de los discursos de activistas alimentarios hace una
fuerte conexin entre la localizacin de los sistemas alimentarios y la promocin de la sostenibilidad ambiental y la justicia social. Gran parte de la
literatura acadmica de los Estados Unidos sobre los sistemas alimentarios hace eco de la retrica de los activistas alimentarios sobre los sistemas
alimentarios alternativos basados en normas sociales alternativas. Nuevas formas de pensar, la tica del cuidado, el deseo, la realizacin y la visin
se convierten en los factores explicativos en la creacin de sistemas alimentarios alternativos. En estas explicaciones basadas en normas, el "Local" se
convierte en el contexto en el cual este tipo de accin funciona. En la literatura del sistema alimentario europeo sobre las "cadenas de valor" locales y
las redes de alimentos alternativos, el localismo se convierte en una forma de mantener los medios de vida rurales. Tanto en las literaturas
norteamericanas como europeas sobre el localismo, el global se convierte en la lgica universal del capitalismo y el local es el punto de resistencia a
esta lgica global, un lugar donde el "empotramiento" puede y sucede. Sin embargo, como lo muestran otras literaturas fuera de los estudios de
alimentos, el local es a menudo un sitio de desigualdad y dominacin hegemnica. Sin embargo, en lugar de declamar el "particularismo radical" del
localismo, es ms productivo cuestionar un "localismo irreflexivo" y forjar alianzas localistas que prestan atencin a la igualdad y la justicia social. El
documento explora cmo podra ser ese tipo de poltica localista.

1. Introduction
Libros como '' Venir a casa a comer '' (Nabhan, 2002) y '' Patrimonio europeo. En ambos casos, aunque por diferentes
Comer aqu '' (Halweil, 2004) representan la llamada de razones, el local se ha vuelto "hermoso", como era
clarn actual entre defensores del sistema alimentario "pequeo" ("pluriactivo" en Europa) en las dcadas de 1970 y
alternativo. El discurso de los activistas alimentarios 1980, "orgnico" ("multifuncional" '') en los aos noventa o al
estadounidenses, con su creciente discusin sobre las menos en el '' desierto '' de los Estados Unidos a principios del
"comidas" y los problemas de las "millas de comida", ha siglo pasado.
venido haciendo conexiones cada vez ms fuertes entre la
localizacin de los sistemas alimentarios y la promocin de En muchos casos, los acadmicos tambin han adoptado la
la sostenibilidad ambiental y la justicia social. En las localizacin como una solucin a los problemas de la agricultura
narrativas activistas, el local tiende a ser enmarcado como el industrial global. En los Estados Unidos, la literatura acadmica
espacio o el contexto en el que las normas y valores ticos sobre sistemas alimentarios alternativos enfatiza la fuerza de una
pueden florecer, de manera que el localismo se convierte integracin en las normas locales (Kloppenburg et al., 1996, Starr
inextricablemente en parte de la explicacin del surgimiento et al., DeLind, 2002), tales como la tica de la atencin, visiones.
de redes alimentarias alternativas y ms sostenibles. En Este localismo normativo coloca un conjunto de valores locales y
Europa, la localizacin se ha convertido en parte integral de conocimientos locales libres de conflictos en la resistencia a las
una nueva E.U. sistema de gobernanza rural descentralizada fuerzas capitalistas anmicas y contradictorias. En Europa, el
para mejorar los medios de subsistencia rurales y fomento de los sistemas alimentarios locales tiene diferentes
Corresponding author. races. Ha surgido en el contexto de nuevas formas de gobernanza
E-mail addresses: emdupuis@ucsc.edu (E.M. DuPuis), rural descentralizada en paralelo con el lento proceso de reforma
hatters@ucsc.edu (D. Goodman). de la Poltica Agrcola Comn (PAC) de la UE. La PAC est
experimentando una transformacin gradual de un
0743-0167/$ - see front matter r 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.jrurstud.2005.05.011
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360 E.M. DuPuis, D. Goodman / Journal of Rural Studies 21 (2005) 359371

centralized, productivist sectoral policy towards a more of the food system in which food and its production are
decentralized model in which a multi-functional agri- aligned with a set of normative, pre-set standards.
culture is a key element of an integrated, more pluralistic This kind of food reform movement seeks to delineate
approach to rural development (Gray, 2000; Lowe et al., alternative food practice standards and pre-determine
2002). In addition, at the meso-level, episodic food their economies of quality rather than to engender the
scares and heightened consumer health and food safety alternative political processes by which local decisions
concerns in Europe have stimulated a turn to quality in about the food system could come about democratically.
food provisioning and reinforced support for multi- With these aims in mind, we begin with a brief
functional agriculture. Supporters of local food systems overview of the a-political (anti-democratic, anti-reex-
in Europe, while arguably less prone to the radical ive) bent in current food localism discourse in the US
transformative idealism of US social movements, regard (brief because the critique has largely already been
relocalization and re-embedding as strategies to realize a covered, particularly by Hinrichs, and Allen et al.). This
Eurocentric rural imaginary and defend its cultural is followed by a more substantial review of localist
identity against a US-dominated, corporate globaliza- value-chain rural development studies in Europe,
tion. which we believe have strong parallels with US localist
Our own work certainly supports the view that global perspectives, particularly in their lack of reexive
industrial agriculture has succeeded through the crea- attention to local politics. We then explore ideas from
tion of a systemic placelessness, and that place has a human geography, political sociology and political
role in the building of alternative food systems (DuPuis, science that we believe provide useful pointers on how
2002, 2005; Goodman and Watts, 1997). Yet, also based to bring politics into analyses of local food networks.
on our past work, we are cautious about an emancipa- This will also enable us to understand the claims for and
tory food agenda that relies primarily on the naming against localism as a normative solution to globaliza-
and following of a particular set of norms or imaginaries tion. We will use these conceptual tools to examine both
about place (Goodman and DuPuis, 2002; DuPuis et al., the US localism literature and the European scholarship
forthcoming; See also Gaytan, 2004). As the following on the quality turn, alternative agro-food networks
discussion will show, an unreexive localism could (AAFN) and short food supply chains (SFSC).
threaten a similar romantic move to the saving nature
rhetoric of environmental social movements. Unreex- 1.1. The romantic anti-politics of localism studies
ive localism, we argue, can have two major negative
consequences. First, it can deny the politics of the local, There are strong parallels between the academic
with potentially problematic social justice consequences. literature on alternative, localized food systems and
Second, it can lead to proposed solutions, based on the rhetoric of food activism built on alternative social
alternative standards of purity and perfection, that are norms or a kind of alternative ethic. Norm-based and
vulnerable to corporate cooptation (Guthman, 2004; ethical narratives also have become one pillar of a
DuPuis, 2002). questionable scalar binary of global-local relations, as
We are therefore joining a growing number of agro- we observe below. Many of the arguments speak about
food scholars who have acknowledged with David relocalizing food systems (Hendrickson and Heffer-
Harvey (1996) that the local is not an innocent term, nan, 2002) into local foodsheds (Kloppenburg et al.,
observing that it can provide the ideological foundations 1996), thereby recovering a sense of community
for reactionary politics and nativist sentiment (Hinrichs, (Esteva, 1994) by reembedding food into local
2000, 2003; Hassanein, 2003). We agree with the many ecologies (Murdoch et al., 2000) and local social
recent thoughtful critiques that have called for a closer relationships (Friedmann, 1994, p. 30). For example,
examination of the local of local food systems, to Holloway and Kneafsey (2004) argue that alternative
explore the ambiguities and subtleties of the ideas of food networks resist capitalism through a substantively
localness and quality (Holloway and Kneafsey, rational form of norm-based action. Localist food
2000, p. 296 quoted in Winter, 2003. See also Allen et politics, therefore, implies that food productioncon-
al., 2003). In common with these scholars, our critique is sumption is undertaken within an ethical framework
meant to be cautionary, not destructive of the alter- and that this ethic of care is intrinsically spatial:
native food agenda (against global, big, conventional, These spatialities are often associated with the desire to
environmentally degrading food systems). The intent of foster relations of closeness or connectedness (2004,
our critique is to put localist actions on a better political p. 1). Hartwick argues that a geography of consumption
footing, one that can contribute to a more democratic entails a greater realization of connections between
local food politics. In this vein, we will question a consumers, places, and networks [which] allows an
localism which is based on a xed set of norms or ethical politics of consumption (1998, p. 424).
imaginaries. In particular, we show how an unreex- In their study of alternative visions of food and
ive localism arises from a perfectionist utopian vision farming among alternative food producers and activists
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in the Upper Midwest, Kloppenburg et al. (2000, p. 182) globalized mass consumption of placeless foods
found that one key denition of sustainable food (Murdoch and Miele, 1999, 2002; Murdoch et al., 2000).
involved production in a proximate system which But who gets to dene the local? What exactly is
emphasized locally grown food, regional trading quality and who do you trust to provide you with this
associations, locally owned processing, local currency, quality? What kind of society is the local embedded in?
and local control over politics and regulation. Simi- Who do you care for and how? As Hinrichs, Winter and
larly, in their analysis of a local Kansas City Food others have noted, the local as a concept intrinsically
Circle, Hendrickson and Heffernan (2002, p. 362) state implies the inclusion and exclusion of particular people,
that the Food Circles perceived role is to connect all places and ways of life. The representation of the local
actors in the food system in a sensible and sustainable and its constructsquality, embeddedness, trust, care
way that sustains the community, is healthy for people privilege certain analytical categories and trajectories,
and the environment, and returns control of the food whose effect is to naturalize and occlude the politics of
system to local communities. the local. The naturalized local then becomes heralded
These positions are based in a counter-logic to the as the incubator of new economic forms whose
political economy of agriculture arguments about the emergence congures a new rural development para-
rise of capitalist agriculture as a global corporate regime digm for some observers (Ploeg et al., 2000).
(McMichael, 2000). As Hendrickson and Heffernan Food activists in the US and proponents in Europe of
(2002, p. 349) describe it: agrarian-based rural development both therefore argue
that localist solutions resist the injustices perpetrated by
As people foster relationships with those who are no
industrial capitalism. But is localism in itself more
longer in their locale, distant others can structure the
socially just? Along with Harvey (2001), we are
shape and use of the locale, a problem that is being
concerned that localism can be based on the interests
explicitly rejected by those involved in local food
of a narrow, sectionalist, even authoritarian, elite, what
system movements across the globe. This compres-
we call an unreexive politics. To formulate a more
sion of space and the speed-up of time are key
reexive politics of localism, we draw specically on the
components of accumulation in the modern era. In
social justice literature, and on the idea of an open
the global food system, power rests with those who
politics of reexivity to envision a localism that is more
can structure this system by spanning distance and
socially just while leaving open a denition of social
decreasing time between production and consump-
justice. Unreexive politics are generally based on what
tion. This reorganization of time and space indicates
Childs (2003) refers to as the politics of conversion: a
a great deal of power on the part of just a few actors
small, unrepresentative group decides what is best for
that are able to benet from the restructuring of the
everyone and then attempts to change the world by
food system.
converting everyone to accept their utopian ideal.
Localism becomes a counter-hegemony to this globa- Together with other scholars of contemporary democ-
lization thesis, a call to action under the claim that the racy, such as Nancy Fraser (1995) and Iris Young
counter to global power is local power. In other words, (2000), Childs argues that the more democratic (or what
if global is domination then in the local we must nd we are calling reexive and open, what Childs calls
freedom. Friedmann, a trenchant observer of the transcommunal and what Benhabib (1996) calls
globalization of food, makes this point forcefully: deliberative) politics is the politics of respect. Here,
[o]nly food economies that are bounded, that is, the emphasis is not on creating an ideal utopian
regional, can be regulated because they bypass the romantic model of society and then working for
corporate principles of distance and durability (1994, society to meet that standard, but on articulating
p. 30). open, continuous, reexive processes which bring
Pointing to Habermas idea of the colonization of together a broadly representative group of people to
the lifeworld by the instrumental (anomic) reason of explore and discuss ways of changing their society.
capitalism, Hendrickson and Heffernan (2002) corre- These processes also take account of the unintended
spondingly embrace the local as the normative realm of consequences, ironies and contradictions involved in all
resistance, a place where caring can and does happen. social change, and treat ongoing conicts and differ-
This echoes much of the US local food system literature, ences between various groups not as polarizing divisions
in which care ethics, desire, realization, and a sustain- but as grounds for respectfuland even productive
able vision become the explanatory factors in the disagreement (cf. Hassanein, 2003). In other words, we
creation of alternative food systems. In these norm or place fully democratic processes squarely at the center of
ethics-based explanations, the Local becomes the our formulation of an open politics of localism.
context in which cultural values work against anomic From this perspective, the critiques made by Hinrichs
capitalism (See also Krippner, 2001). In Europe, the (2000, 2003), Hinrichs and Kremer (2002),Winter (2003)
local is invested with similar hopes as a redoubt against and Allen et al. (2003) can be seen as raising the problem
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that unreexive localism can lead to a potentially reform agendas by universalizing particular ways of
undemocratic, unrepresentative, and defensive militant living as perfect.
particularism. Hinrichs (2000, p. 301) has made the As critiques of the US reform movements have noted,
fundamental point that to assume that locally embedded this politics of perfection stems not only from a class
economic activities necessarily involve non-instrumen- hegemonic politics, but also incorporates the racial
tal, ethics-based interpersonal relations is to conate representation of whiteness as the unmarked category.
spatial relations with social relations. In this respect, Lipsitz (1998) calls US white middle class politics the
Hinrichs and Kremer (2002) show that local food system possessive investment in whiteness. This possessive
movement members tend to be white, middle-class investment has a material aspect in the monopolization
consumers and that the movement threatens to be of resources, with mortgage credit and education being
socially homogenized and exclusionary. In a case-study two instances that Lipsitz emphasizes (See also Cohen,
of recent initiatives to relocalize the food system in 2003). This is accomplished by a sleight of hand in which
Iowa, Hinrichs (2003, p. 37) cautions that these attempts institutionalized racism is hidden behind a representa-
to construct regional identity can be associated with a tion of what is normal, with all variations from this
defensive politics of localization, leading to reication norm represented as deviations. For example, a coali-
of the local and becoming elitist and reactionary, tion of white middle-class reform groups, health ofcials
appealing to nativist sentiments. and farmers elevated milk to the status of a perfect
Allen et al. (2003) also demonstrate that localism in food which would improve the general health of all
current alternative food movements is not necessarily bodies when, in fact, milk is a culturally, genetically, and
associated with advocacy of more socially just care historically specic food (DuPuis, 2002).
ethic political agendas. In their study of alternative A reexive local politics of food would entail taking
food initiatives in California, the leaders of these into account ways in which peoples notions of right
organizations articulate a clear preference for ecological living, and especially right eating, are wrapped up in
sustainability over social justice, and express condence these possessive investments in race, class and gender.
in entrepreneurial, market-based processes of change in Such a politics would actively seek to expose and
the current food system. (See also Allen, 1999). In undermine the tendency of specic groups to work from
Europe, Michael Winter (2003) also situates his empiri- this politics of perfection, which universalizes and
cal analysis of support for local farming in ve rural elevates particular ways of eating as ideal when, in fact,
areas of England and Wales within ideologies of all eatinglike all human actionis imperfect and
defensive localism, and notes that local consumers contradictory (Guthman and DuPuis, forthcoming).
can regard conventionally produced foods as equally The power and effectiveness of white middle class
locally embedded as organic products. On the basis of reform movementsfrom abolition to alarcannot be
these ndings, Winter (2003, p. 30) concludes that the denied. These movements have accomplished much,
turn to local food may cover many different forms of especially in terms of providing US cities with water and
agriculturey giving rise to a wide range of politics. sewer systems, without which they would have con-
These critiques show that the politics of localism can tinued to be places of extremely high mortality (Tarr,
be problematic and contradictory. However, these 1996; Platt, 2005). However, particularly with the rise of
critiques are not made to de-legitimize localism but to a new, more fractured middle class politics in the US, it
provide a better understanding of the complexity and is important to pay more attention to the ways in which
pitfalls of local politics and the long-term deleterious our possessive investments in our own racial privilege
effects of reform movements controlled primarily by inuences how we dene problems and solutions.
members of the middle class. The social history of One way to do this is to consider recent reinterpreta-
middle class reform movements bent on improve- tions of US history which have put race squarely at the
ment, whether of degraded urban environments or center of the story, particularly those histories that
unhealthy working class families, created a sanitarian examine the creation of local rural places. For example,
(Hamlin, 1998) germ politics, which separated the Matt Garcias A World of Its Own (2001) and Herberts
dirty from the clean and, in the same way, White Plague (1987) show how white middle classes
established a welfare system that distinguished between created systems of racial domination in California and
the deserving and the undeserving poor. Several Texas rural localities, respectively. In fact, one of the
feminist social historians have critiqued these welfare most shocking aspects of Matt Garcias history of Los
reform movements for their narrow race, class and Angeles orange production regions in the early part of
gender maternalist politics based on a particular the twentieth century is the juxtaposition of political
norm or standard as the right way to live (Baker, rhetoric describing orange growers as democratic yeo-
1991; Mink, 1995). DuPuis (2002) shows the connection man with cheerful pictures of them dressed up in Ku
between the rise of US food reform and welfare Klux Klan robes. Orange growing communities put
movements, in which the middle class controlled both Hispanic workers in their place in more ways than
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one, burning crosses on lawns if Hispanic families tried managed to bring both left and right agendas together
to move into neighborhoods beyond the labor camps around the European rural imaginary. For example, a
and colonias, while allowing them to provide ethnic neoliberal compromise in Italy can be seen in the
entertainment in exclusive white supper clubs. funding of the Slow Food Movements recent Terra
Needless to say, European local food movements stem Madre conference: while the movement itself is led by
from a very different history of class, racial and left-leaning Carlo Petrini, much of the funding came
gendered relationships. Calls for the relocalization of from the neoliberal state and from the right-wing
food systems appear to stem from a perceived need to National Alliance (Hooper, 2004).
protect European rural economy and society from the To varying degrees, this rural imaginary has also had
potentially damaging consequences of international a discernible inuence in several recent contributions to
agricultural trade liberalization. These defensive moves European rural sociology. It is particularly salient in the
include replacement of direct production subsidies by notion of endogenous rural development, which builds
forms of farm income support, notably for agri- on the empirical observation that European agriculture
environmental and rural development schemes, consid- is entangled in a diverse constellation of socio-ecologi-
ered to be non-trade distorting under World Trade cal, economic, cultural, and historical relations. This
Organization rules, the so-called green box payments. approach more recently has been transposed into the
These changes are reinforced by a growing perception in proposition that the practices, new forms of economic
EU policy circles that the consumer-driven turn to organization, and institutional changes associated with
quality has created a wider range of farm-based the turn to quality in food provisioning constitute a
livelihood opportunities for those producers who can new rural development paradigm (Ploeg et al., 2000).
adopt conventions of product quality which emphasize Its normative content is evident in the view that this new
territorial provenance in localized socio-ecological paradigm, unlike its predecessor of agricultural moder-
processes. A case in point is the UK, where re-localized, nization, is rooted in historical traditions and indeed
embedded food systems are seen as a means to enhance can be understood as a kind of repeasantization of
the competitiveness and economic and environmental European farming (ibid, 403, original emphasis).
sustainability of farming. This view of local food This diversity is conceptualized in terms of styles of
systems as the foundation of a more competitive, farming, and it is argued that Europes countryside
market-oriented farming sector is articulated very (should) be safeguarded as precious cultural capital
clearly in the 2002 Report of the Policy Commission by promoting farming styles based on the optimal use
on the Future of Food and Farming, whose brief was to of local resources (Ploeg and van Dijk, 1995, p. xii).
formulate a new strategy for agriculture following the This normative position is underpinned by the claim
2001 Foot and Mouth Disease epidemic in Britain. that Endogenous development patterns tend to materi-
Although this market-oriented approach is more alize as self-centered processes of growth: that is,
nuanced and muted elsewhere in the EU, the European relatively large parts of the total value generated
academic literature on local food systems places great through this type of development are re-allocated in
emphasis on the economic viability of new, farm-based the locality itself (Ploeg and Long, 1994, p. 2).
sources of value-added and related processes of territor- A rural imaginary also infuses the characterization of
ial valorization, as we discuss below. alternative agro-food networks (AAFN) and short
However, in Europe, the rural imaginary also food supply chains (SFSC) as sources of resistance
embraces a distinctive European possessive invest- against the homogenizing effects of placeless, globa-
ment in national traditions, although expressed in an lized, industrial modes of food provisioning and the
unmarked discourse of small family farms, local McDonaldization of regional food cultures (Murdoch
markets where producers and consumers interact, and Miele, 1999; Murdoch and Miele, 2002; Marsden et
regional food cultures, vibrant rural communities, and al., 1999; Murdoch et al., 2000). The Slow Food
ecologically diverse rural environments. In the words of Movement and its efforts to counter the march of the
former French president, Francois Mitterand, these golden arches by valorizing regional cuisines and their
constitute a certain kind of rural civilization (The rural networks of provision arguably is the most
Times, 7 February, 1987). Perceptions that this civiliza- prominent expression of this oppositional, militant
tion is now under threat extend across the political particularism.
spectrum. In the case of France, this threat is identied Unlike its US counterpart, however, the normative
with globalization by left social movements, whereas for idealization of the rural localthe re-localization and
the radical right it comes from immigration. These re-embedding of agro-food practices in local eco-social
currents also can be seen in the strange rural compro- relationsis obscured, at least in part, by a comple-
mise forged by the market-based, rural value-added mentary discourse of economic performance and com-
policies of neoliberal governments in both Italy and the petitiveness, which has attracted policy support. As
UK which, by a stroke of political alchemy, have noted earlier, the gradual re-orientation of the EUs
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Common Agricultural Policy towards a wider notion of development practices is regarded as the source of
rural development involving more decentralized policy- signicant synergies at farm enterprise level as farm
making, multifunctionality, and territoriality has en- households reduce their dependence on mass markets by
hanced receptivity to this discourse (Lowe et al., 2002, mobilizing on-farm resources and diversify output by re-
pp. 1415). In this respect, the claims articulated earlier integrating value-adding activities into the farm produc-
to buttress the concept of endogenous rural develop- tion process.
ment re-emerge with AAFN/SFSC seen as new sources These analyses usefully remind us of the dynamism of
of value added that can be retained locally and hence as valorization processes. However, they do not address
catalysts of rural economic regeneration and dynamism. the political driving forces behind the reconguration of
As argued elsewhere, The ability of quality food space and scale and the new forms of commodication
products to secure premium prices and so generate of territoriality. The local as an arena of political-
excess prots is a central plank of (this) market-led, economic struggle and socially constructed scale of
value added model (Goodman, 2004, p. 8). However, accumulation remains an opaque category, conceptually
as discussed at length below, formulations of this and empirically, a veritable black box. Territoriality, a
market-oriented, economic localism also occlude place cipher for the local, similarly is unexamined, gured by
politics, not least the struggles to appropriate and landscape, habitat or craft knowledge in ways which
sustain the ows of economic rent arising in the new naturalize the social relations underlying its production
economic spaces created by AAFN/ SFSC (Ploeg et al., and reproduction.
2000; Marsden et al., 2002; Ploeg and Renting, 2000;
Renting et al., 2003).
In keeping with this economistic analysis, the local is 2. Rethinking the idea of the local: taking politics
framed as a site of new opportunities for value-added seriously
generation. Thus producers are encouraged to short
circuit industrial chains by building new associational The purpose of our critique is not to deny the local as
networks and creating different relationships with a powerful political force against the forces of globaliza-
consumers through engagement with different con- tion. Our real goal is to understand how to make
ventions and constructions of quality that evoke localism into an effective social movement of resistance
locality/region or speciality and nature (Marsden et to globalism rather than a way for local elites to create
al., 2002, p. 425). With their capacity to re-socialize or protective territories for themselves. This requires letting
re-spatialize food, SFSC are in a position to valorize go of a local that fetishizes emplacement as intrinsically
those qualiers of the local and its socio-ecological more just. We have to move away from the idea that
attributesterroir, traditional knowledge, landrace spe- food systems become just by virtue of making them local
cies, for examplethat can be translated into higher and toward a conversation about how to make local
prices. In this instrumental context, the local becomes a food systems more just.
discursive construct and is deployed to convey meaning In seeking to bring politics back in to analyses of
at a distance, and thereby becomes a source of value. local food networks, we are drawn to Amins (2002)
Bluntly stated, from this perspective, the local and SFSC proposal for a new politics of the local. Thus he argues
are empirically and theoretically conjoined principally in for a shift in emphasis from the politics of place to a
the form of economic rent, though without explicit politics in place (p. 397, original emphasis). The former
attention to the politics of its appropriation.1 y sees cities and regions as performing a kind of
As we have noted previously, some authors discern place-based politics,y a distinctive politics of place
the contours of a new rural development paradigm in based on the powers of proximity/particularity in a
the processes and practices that are (re-)valorizing the world of displaced and multiscalar happenings and
local as a site of new value streams and accumulation power geometries (pp. 396397). Politics in place, by
(Ploeg et al., 2000). This paradigm change is predicated contrast, is a nonterritorial way of viewing place
on a transition from the agricultural modernization politics in an age of global connectivity. Instead of
logic of economies of scale to a focus on economies of seeing political activity as unique, places might be seen
scope (Ploeg and Renting, 2000) and a re-emphasis on as the sites which juxtapose the varied politicsthe
non-commoditized circuits characteristic of the old and local, national, and globalthat we nd today. What
well-known resistance paysanne (Ploeg et al., 2000, matters is this juxtaposition (Amin, p. 397). The merit
p. 403). The integration of new and traditional rural of Amins conception is to see political activity in
places as plural, open, and contested (p. 397), thereby
1 avoiding the normative contradictions to which a
Marsden et al. (2002, p. 426) do stress that research to advance
greater understanding of the processes determining the attribution
politics of place is prone (See also Castree, 2004).
and allocation of economic value across the different actors in the To forge our understanding of the local as an
supply chains be placed on the agenda. imperfect politics in place, we need to begin by opening
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E.M. DuPuis, D. Goodman / Journal of Rural Studies 21 (2005) 359371 365

up the black box of trust and ask: where does that been entirely ignored. We would argue that this is due to
trust come from and is it always, intrinsically good? In a disciplinary split between urban and rural sociology,
some cases, such as local food systems controlled by and urban and rural geography. Rural sociologists,
organized crime, trust involves the certainty of harm if perhaps not surprisingly, tend to be particularly
one does not follow the rules. The historical relationship unfamiliar with urban sociology. While this lacuna
between organized crime and New Yorks Fulton Fish may have been of less signicance in earlier studies of
Market comes immediately to mind here (New York rurality, it becomes particularly problematic in the study
Times, 1997) although there are clearly many other of local food systems, which are characterized by
examples. relationships both within and between the urban and
Trust, therefore, like all other social interaction, is the rural. For example, there has been little attention to
political. It is not necessarily based on equitable the urban political interests around farmers markets. In
relationships nor reexive democratic processes. Yet, other words, if only for purely demographic reasons,
the relocalization literature has tended to treat trust as food politics, whether the urbanrural food alliances
intrinsically just, another way of depoliticizing an of the 1970s and 80s (McLeod, 1976; Belasco, 1993) or
activity by purifying it. This perfect politics is todays food policy councils are based in urban
embedded in social narratives of salvation and degrada- activism. Nearly all food councilsThe Kansas City
tion that have been a part of US middle class, romantic, Food Circle, the Toronto Food Policy Council, etc.
reformist culture since the early nineteenth century are named after the city that contains the consumers,
(DuPuis, 2002; Vandergeest and DuPuis, 1995). not the region that contains the producers. This suggests
Instead, we seek to free food reform from its control by that we need to understand the urban to understand
consumers of a particular class and ethnicity who have local food systems. Better analysis of local urbanrural
historically set the agenda for saving the food system. politics will lead, we believe, to less reliance on
In the next section of the paper, we will depurify ideas normativegesellshaft/gemeinshaft explanations
of the local and of trust by re-admitting politics into an and give greater weight to the opening up of political
understanding of food relocalization as a social move- processes.
ment. This enables a rethinking of the local not as a A related approach to the unreexive localism of
romantic move toward emancipation but as an open, European research on the quality turn would emphasize
inclusive and reexive politics in place. that insofar as politics are drawn to the analytical
To do this, it is necessary to place the local food foreground, this place is taken by food politics whose
systems debate into the larger debate over devolutionist ethos and organization are typically urban. These
forms of governance. Lawrence, in an overview of new politics emerged in the 1980s to challenge the environ-
localist forms of rural governance, lists three major mental degradation caused by industrial agriculture,
political problems that arise when decisionmaking is occupy the spaces created by the withdrawal of the
moved down to what gets characterized as the lowest nation-state from regulatory arenas, and to campaign
appropriate level (2005, p. 5). First, localization can for healthy and safe food provision. Contemporary
simply reinforce local elites at the expense of other local expressions of these food politics include AAFN/SFSC
actors. Secondly, localization may be a zero-sum and the associated revival of local food products,
solution because it can result in unproductive inter- regional cuisines and specialty foods. Yet, for all their
regional competition. Finally, localization is not neces- recent momentum and growing diversity, the role of
sarily incompatible with globalization and may be open urban political interests in the articulation of these
to deployment in a neoliberal glocal logic (Swynge- projects and recongurations of the local has been
douw, 1997a, b). In other words, to understand the ways largely ignored.
in which localization can lead to inequitable conse- While many areas of urban studies have something to
quences requires understanding how it might relate to offer to the analysis of local food systems, we will review
various existing forms of power. only two subdisciplines here: community power studies
Interestingly, there are vast areas of work on these and urban environmental history.
three issues that have been largely ignored in the local Studies of community power began with Robert
food studies literature. A brief overview of work in these Dahls historical analysis of political power in New
three areasurban studies, regionalism, and the politics Haven, Connecticut (1961), continuing with John
of scalewill illustrate the power of understanding local Gaventas study of power and powerlessness in Appa-
food systems as a politics in place. lachia (1980) and most evident today in the studies of
city growth politics rst initiated by Logan and Harvey
2.1. Urban studies (1987). The ndings of these community power studies
make it difcult to conceive of the local as the ethical
The politics between city elites and their urban hinter- guarantor of an egalitarian politics of care. These
land food producers in food relocalization projects has studies show how local elites go about controlling city
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and regional politics, although often constrained the by and Carlo Petriniare looking to Europeparticularly
increasingly global competition over economic growth. Italy and Franceas a kind of city on a hill example
One of the classics of urban community power of a different kind of political alliance between cities and
researchDahls (1961) study of New Haven, Who the countryside. The extent to which European urban
Governs?demonstrates the power of elites in that city, rural relationships in fact fulll this ideal, the extent to
although the social composition of that elite group which they will be able to maintain this ideal as Spain
changed over time. At rst, old patrician families becomes the new California and Africa becomes
maintained political control, later replaced by local Europes global garden (Friedberg, 2004), and the
industry leaders, and then by an ethnic political regime. extent to which US consumers will be able to re-create
While Dahl was not much interested in how city Europe in their backyards are all key questions in
politics affected the urban hinterland, it is worth understanding the contemporary politics of food
thinking about how each of these urban political elites localism.
would have had signicantly different relationships with
their surrounding rural brethren. Consider an urban- 2.2. Sectional politics
rural politics under a patrician urban regime, compared
to an ethnic urban regime. The problem and potentials We also need to recognize, as human geographers
are vastly different. One interesting question worth have long understood (Harvey, 1985; Cox, 2002), that
exploring is the difference in the interface between a rather than a romantic movement of resistance, localism
patrician, and industrial and an ethnic politics with a can be mobilized as a powerful strategy of territorial
rural agrarian politics. To what extent have different competition between regions. For the most part,
political interests clashed or coincided? localism is as much a protection of particular places
So far, for US cities, urban environmental historians against other places as it is a form of resistance to some
have come the closest to trying to answer these abstract conception of the global. Two literatures are
questions. They emphasize the role of local institutions, particularly applicable here: the economic geography
elites and political coalitions in the creation of urban literature on regional industrial competitiveness, and the
ecosystems that relate cities to nature (Cronon, 1991). historical literature on sectionalism and regional ur-
They have shown how middle class urban consumer banrural/farmerconsumer alliances.
reformers in the US have been a powerful political force In some cases, sectionalism can walk a thin line
in the creation of modern urban ecosystems (Tarr, 1996; between a regional development effort and a form of
Platt, 2005; DuPuis, 2004) including food systems xenophobia. For example, in California, one commer-
(DuPuis, 2002). For much of the modern urban period, cial for the state cheese industry features two cows, one
white middle class consumersin alliance with the of which is embarrassed because she has a spot on her
growing class of government professionalsactively ank that resembles the state of Wisconsin. Is that why
supported the growth of large scale capitalist urban Marge acts so weird to me, she asks her friend and
provisioning systems because they saw this system as fellow cow, because I thought it was because of the
cheaply and efciently meeting their needs (Cohen, time I backwashed in the water trough. As this case
2003), part of the larger Fordist bargain that dened shows, sectional competition and xenophobia can
modes of urban livelihood provisioning. In some become political bedfellows. Local social movements
periods, the agenda of urban consumer elites focused supporting sustainability need to ask whether there are
on food safety and quality, dened as sanitation and costs to allying themselves with xenophobic sectionalism
inspection. At other times, this agenda has included a or defensive localism (Winter, 2003). There may also
concern over prices, ostensibly to solve food access be a cost to alliances with local elites that stand to
problems for the poor, but also in alliance with middle benet from localization. While these may seem like
class consumers struggling with tight budgets (DuPuis, obvious points, they often get missed in homogenous
2002). Urban elites also have sought to gain and references to community and trust in the localist
maintain power over their rural hinterlands for other discourse on food.
purposesrecreation, leisure, resource use, etc. (Van- The prospect that greater inter-regional competition
dergeest and DuPuis, 1995). may lead to uneven, if not zero-sum, outcomes, offers a
Now, however, this Fordist triangulation between serious challenge to the notion of relocalization as a new
urban consumers, government professionals and large- rural development paradigm in Europe as well. Thus,
scale global capitalismthe old sanitarian Fordist Buller and Morris (2004, p. 1078) observe, once
regimehas unraveled. With the disintegration of this territoriality becomes a component of value, it also
modern consumergovernmentindustrial food alliance, becomes a commodity in itself, to protect and exploit, a
some urban consumers are looking for new allies. In the source of differentially commodied relationships,
US, many of these new middle-class urban consumer leading to, in Marsdens words, new rural geographies
movementsparticularly those inspired by Alice Waters of value (Marsden, 1999 p. 507). The dimensions and
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expressions of this new competitive territoriality of European political development is revealing (Sanders,
value, and its implications for processes of rural 1999; Bensel, 1984). For example, Elizabeth Sanders has
development, are only just beginning to be explored. examined the inter-connections between different forms
Thus Marsden et al. (2002) express their misgivings that of agrarian and urban politics in several US regions, to
these new rural geographies will be disequalizing, explain why farmer-labor alliances were more salient
reecting the asymmetrical spatial distributions of in some regions than others. Using Sanders, DuPuis
socioecological assets and competences. In this case, (2002) and DuPuis and Block (2002) show how different
the problem is that SFSC and their localized spacetime urbanrural political alliances resulted in the establish-
equations may be unique and resistant to replication. ment of different dairy market order policies in the
This distinctiveness creates one of the most signicant Chicago and New York milksheds. This historical
paradoxes of the new rural development paradigm perspective on the politics of regionalism could greatly
(p. 436), which leads these authors to urge that we need add to the understanding of local food systems today.
to progress the concept of rural development clustering For example, if the racial or ethnic composition of cities
to ensure that SFSC collectively make a major spatial differs signicantly from the characteristics of the rural
impact (p. 436). hinterland, how will this affect potential political
Agro-food studies here nds itself at a crossroads that alliances? Agrarian politics, at least in California, also
has generated intense debate in economic geography in entails a landlord classoften living in local citiesover
recent years. Thus one current has explored the and above a producer class, and the interests of this
signicance of territorially specic competences of landlord class often differ not only from those of
untraded dependencies (Storper, 1995)notably loca- producers but also of other city residents (DuPuis,
lized knowledges and interpersonal networks and pools 2005). In these cases, the perspectives gained from urban
of skilled laborin generating agglomeration econo- studies may help provide explanations for the relative
mies and sustaining regional economic competitiveness. strength or weakness of urbanrural food alliances.
As in the SFSC literature, the individual enterprise is
placed very much at the center of the analysis. This 2.3. Localism and neoliberal globalization
focus had led several leading economic geographers to
deplore what they see as a concomitant retreat from Several inuential social constructionist formulations
political economy and the neglect of exploitation, power of contemporary globallocal relations argue that
and politics in scaling the space economy of contem- globalization processes are producing a new scalar
porary capitalism (Amin and Thrift, 2002; Antipode, x in the geographic division of labor of the state
Special Issue, 33(2), 2001). (Jessop, 2000). In this reconguration of political scales,
Although this critique is addressed to the new the subnational and global levels are gaining promi-
economic geography and its obsession with industrial nence at the expense of the nation-state, a process that
districts, learning regions and knowledge economies, it has been characterized as glocalization (Swyngedouw,
usefully highlights the normative stakes at issue in 1997a, b) and the hollowing out of the state (Jessop,
taking an enterprise-centered approach to the concept of 1999, 2000). A number of authors (Jessop, 1998;
rural development clustering. As Perrons (2001, p. 208) Lovering, 1999; Lawrence, 2005; Dean, 1999) have
observes of the focus on the minutiae of change, in suggested that the embrace of localist forms of control
particular linkages between rms in economic clus- are experiments in sub-national regional governance
tersy, These studies are very partial and the wider that are themselves a response to wider problems in
consequences of economic change or rm competitive- managing global capitalism (Lawrence, 2005, p. 3).
ness for the well-being of people in places are correspond- Relocalization can be seen as part of the restructuring of
ingly neglected (our emphasis). One possible point of government toward governance: the devolution of
departure, as agro-food studies meets regional devel- decisionmaking to local networks of self-governing
opment, is to afrm, with Cox (2002), following Harvey actors, coordinated through multi-layered institutional
(1985), the importance of territorial coalitions in structures. From this more critical perspective, reloca-
contesting and improving local positions in the geo- lization appears to be not so much in resistance to
graphic division of production and consumption. neoliberal globalization as an intrinsic part of it, because
In other words, and this is a deceptively simple point, it has endorsed and fostered the self regulation of
when we attempt to implement a local food system individuals and communities which, at the regional
strategy, we need to pay attention to local institutional level, equates to the acceptance of programs, techniques
interests. We need to ask: which local institutions are and procedures that support market rule, productivism
more successful in promoting democratic, reexive and global competition (Lawrence, 2005, p. 9). In other
localist solutions and which merely perpetuate local words, relocalization can be part and parcel of what
inequalities? In this respect, historical scholarship on the Dean (1999), using Foucault, calls neoliberal govern-
organization of regional institutions in American and mentality.
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In the face of these new arguments about global and the ontology of scale, from the local to the global,
governance, the presumption that localization intrinsi- is not preordained but can be recongured through
cally stands as a force against globalization seems, at socio-political struggle (Smith, 1993; Swyngedouw,
best, naive. In fact, in the absence of specic case- 1997a, b).
studies, it is arguable that localization most recently has AAFN/SFSC scholarship could productively engage
been deployed to further a neoliberal form of global with the socio-spatial practices of scale construction to
logic, a refashioning of agricultural governance that theorize the contested processes constituting the local
plays on both left ideals of political participation and and the dynamic interaction between local forms of
right ideals of non-interference in markets (See also socio-spatial organization and translocal actors and
Allen et al., 2003). This is a dangerous political bargain, institutions. Instead, the local in agro-food studies is
which in other arenas has lead to the dismantling of currently taken for granted as a puried category and
hard-fought government institutional capacities in treated as a context or locale that is conducive to the
utility regulation, anti-trust and the state protection of emergence of new economic forms incorporating alter-
citizens health and welfare. native social norms.
It would be equally presumptious, of course, to argue Several recent debates in critical human geography
that all localism is the handmaiden of neoliberalism. reveal lines of theoretical enquiry that may be helpful in
However, only by looking at the local as a politics in overcoming the neglect of place politics and socio-
place is it possible to understand the ways in which spatial processes in agro-food studies and the reication
localism is deployed for or against global forces. of the local and localism. A recent essay by Castree
(2004) examines the ideas of place that seem to have
become axiomatic for a cohort of critical human
3. Conclusion: local politics as the new politics of scale geographers (p. 135) and their shared premise that
outward-looking connectivities and translocal ties en-
The largely apolitical approach to place construction gender and characterize a progressive politics of place.
in the agro-food literature on the quality turn and local This normative position is based on the idea that a
food systems contrasts vividly with the lively debates on geographical politics that proactively weds agendas in
the politics of space and place found in human one place to those in myriad otherswhat Katz (2001,
geography. These debates bring out the importance of p. 724) calls a rooted translocalismis to be preferred
spatial and scalar political processes in the social to one that is place-bound (Castree, 2004, p. 135).2
construction of place, emphasize the contingent nature This cohort, represented in Castrees paper by David
of sociospatial structures and scalar orderings, and Harvey, Doreen Massey and Michael Watts, has worked
direct analytical attention to the winners and losers in assiduously to discredit bounded or self-enclosed con-
these struggles. Agro-food studies could draw inspira- cepts of place often associated with these puried,
tion from the literature on the new politics of scale. discrete representations. In contesting attempts to put
The new politics of scale (NPS) refers to the produc- strong boundaries around placesthat is, to enclose
tion, reconguration or contestation of particular peoples, resources or knowledges within a local
differentiations, orderings, and hierarchies among geo- domain (Castree, 2004, p. 135), this cohort has
graphical scalesy the referent here is thus the process formulated a relational conception of place based on
of scaling, (Brenner, 2001, p. 600 original emphasis). the ontological claim that translocal tiesy in part
The contested social constructedness of scale also leads constitute those places. As Castree (2004, p. 134) puts
to recognition of what Agnew (1999, p. 504) calls the it, their relational imaginaries together contest a view
historicity of spatiality: the changes over time in the of places as locations of distinct coherence (Massey,
geographical embeddedness of power relationships (p. 1999, p. 14). Instead, they depict place as nodes in
512; cited in Amin, 2002, p. 386). relational settings (Amin, 2002, p. 391), as specic yet
Despite its potential complementarity, the agro-food globalized sites (Watts, 1991, p. 10) and as articulated
literature on local food systems curiously has ignored moments in networks (Massey, 1994, p. 5). These
this challenging body of work in human geography. dynamic, relational conceptualizations of place promise
Indeed, the quality turn literature takes the ontology of greater analytical purchase than the current presump-
the local as given, not as a category to be explicated in tion in agro-food studies that the ontology of place is
terms of societal processes. This stance is certainly given in the order of things.
idiosyncratic, if not myopic, when The proposition that These human geographers are very much aware
geographical scale is socially constructed (is) an estab- of the dangers of an uncritical celebration of local
lished truism within contemporary human geography
(Brenner, 2001, p. 592, original emphasis). In this 2
Although not detailed here, Castree (2004) rejects the axiomatic
perspective, territories and scales are contested social force of this shibboleth by drawing on the politics of the global
constructions (Herod, 1991, p. 84, original emphasis) indigenous peoples movement and assessing their strong place claims.
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place-projects, and several have raised the specter of about both their own norms and about the structural
geographical fetishism (Castree, 2004; Watts, 1999). economic logics of production.
Similarly, in the new industrial geography literature, In this respect, we nd strong parallels between our
with its emphasis on localized knowledge and inter- concept of a democratic consumption politics and the
personal relations, Amin and Cohendet (1999) have democratic production politics articulated in Guthmans
warned against spatial fetishization in accounts of (2004) vision of process vs. standards organic. Here
socio-spatial embeddedness, which tend to exaggerate she is drawing a distinction based on Harveys embrace
the autonomy of the local. As we have seen the pitfalls of a utopia of process rather than a traditional
of defensive localism also have been well-rehearsed in standards utopian vision. How to make localism an
agro-food studies. However, this critique would be more open, process-based vision (Young, 2000), rather than a
incisive if it explored the far more extensive literature on xed set of standards, is one of the major challenges the
place-making and spatial politics in critical human alternative food systems movement faces today.
geography.
The relevance of the NPS for explorations of power
and politics in local food systems lies in the centrality it
Acknowledgements
gives to social struggle and contestation in the making of
place and scale. This analytical focus also undermines
We would like to acknowledge the Agro-Food Studies
reductionist global-local binaries and the tendency to
Research Group at UCSC (particularly Julie Guthman,
concede the global as the domain of capital while
Margaret Fitzsimmons, Patricia Allen, Mike Goodman
paradoxically framing the local as a site of empower-
ment (Herod and Wright, 2002). This emphasis on and Bill Friedland) and its discussions of localism. The
paper also beneted greatly from the comments of
contested socio-spatial processes draws on the wider
participants in the Local Development Strategies in
point that Interests are constituted at many different
Food Supply Chains at the XI World Congress of Rural
scales and contest scale divisions of labor that are
Sociology, Trondheim, Norway, where portions of this
equally varied and equally subject to redenition (Cox,
paper were rst presented. We would like to thank Terry
2002, p. 106). Leitner (2004) makes a related observation
Marsden who initiated the invitation to that conference,
when discussing differences in the NPS literature on the
and the Center for Rural Research, Trondheim, Nor-
conceptualization of power and its location. Thus some
constructivist studies of scale conceptualize power as way, for its nancial support.
located exclusively in capitalist production relations,
whereas others locate it in a range of actors and
institutions multiply situated in economic, political and References
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