Handbook of the International Political Economy of the Corporation
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Handbook of the International Political Economy of the Corporation

Edited by Andreas Nölke and Christian May

Over the past few decades, corporations have been neglected in studies of international political economy (IPE). Seeking to demystify them, what they are, how they behave and their goals and constraints, this Handbook introduces the corporation as a unit of analysis for students of IPE. Providing critical discussion of their global and domestic power, and highlighting the ways in which corporations interact with each other and with their socio-political environment, this Handbook presents a thorough and up-to-date overview of the main debates around the role of corporations in the global political economy.
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Chapter 27: The power of corporations in global food sector governance

Tobias Gumbert and Doris Fuchs

Abstract

The global agrifood system is particularly suited to study corporate power. Over the last century, business enterprises across the various stages of the food chain have grown to enormous sizes and extended their reach to every corner of the globe. At the same time, however, the global food system is also a good place to look at the contestation of corporate power. In the last decades, we have seen a rise in practices and initiatives providing an intentionally and distinctly different cultural, economic and political system of food production, distribution and consumption. Their size and overall impact pale in comparison to those of a single corporate actor in the food chain. Still, we may want to ask to what extent these challenges to a corporatized global political economy of food may carry the potential for fundamental change, in the end. In this chapter, the authors tell both stories. They show how transnational corporations today go far beyond their traditional political role as lobbyists, by directly engaging in global food governance through various practices and mechanisms. Indeed, they play a core role both in the creation of rules for others, and in the creation of the very rules meant to monitor and control their own activities. The authors also show how civil society and small business actors collaborate (if not merge) in attempts to create alternatives to the industrial and corporatized global food system. On the basis of these two stories, different scenarios for the future of the global political economy of food arise.

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