Handbook of the International Political Economy of Agriculture and Food
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Handbook of the International Political Economy of Agriculture and Food

Edited by Alessandro Bonanno and Lawrence Busch

This book tackles the central question of the political and structural changes and characteristics that govern agriculture and food. Original contributions explore this highly globalized economic sector by analyzing salient geographical regions and substantive topics. Along with chapters that investigate agri-food in North America, Europe, Latin America, Asia and Oceania, the book includes contributions that cover topics such as labor, science and technology, the financialization of agri-food, and supermarkets.
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Chapter 11: The political economy of agri-food: Supermarkets

Geoffrey Lawrence and Jane Dixon


Since antiquity, food has been traded through bartering and money-based exchanges, with village marketplaces providing the mechanism for interactions and physical transactions. Industrialization, colonization and – more recently – agricultural “modernization” and globalization have changed relations between food providers and food consumers. These social forces have, importantly, resulted in the movement of people from the land to the cities and with it, the need to support burgeoning urban-based populations with farm-based goods including vegetables, milk, bread and meat. Whether it was in the industrializing cities of Paris or London, the 1850s’ goldfields of California or Australia, or the twentieth century backstreet slums of colonized nations like India, Kenya or Colombia, small grocery stores proliferated to meet consumer demand. In general terms, such stores were owner-operated and were reliant, for their economic reproduction, on the purchase of fresh produce, along with an array of simply manufactured food products (cheeses, preserved meats, canned vegetables) which were then on-sold to consumers at a higher cost than the original purchase.

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