Planetary food regimes: understanding the entanglement between human and planetary health in the Anthropocene

Jonathan Beacham*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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Food regime theory (as conceptualised by Friedmann and McMichael, 1989) provides a framework of continued and recurring interest to geographical perspectives in charting the contours connecting agri-food and capitalist political economy. Drawing principally on Marxian regulation theory, the analytical framework of food regime theory outlines three periodised regimes from the starting point of 1870 to the present day. Yet there remains ongoing and unresolved debate as to how we characterise the contemporary third regime—and whether it is a regime on its own specific terms or merely an enduring hangover from the second. I argue that an underacknowledged dimension of attempts to characterise the third regime lies in the conjoined relationship between human and planetary health, which the diagnosis of the Anthropocene encourages us to recognise amidst tumultuous global environmental change. Given food regime theory’s evasive relationship with ecological dynamics within its explanatory framework (Campbell, 2009 an important exception), I suggest that a ‘planetary’ retheorisation of its central contributions is increasingly prescient. In considering the growing tensions and contradictions afflicting the contemporary regime, and using soy as a working example, I work through three central arguments. Firstly, that a planetary retheorisation serves to reveal the way in which planetary dynamics shape social life, enabling—albeit never wholly determining—food regimes. Secondly, that what and how people eat in their dietary practices are of planetary significance, which has been to some degree marginalised within the production-centric analyses of food regime theory. Thirdly, that the conceptual Anthropocene highlights how planetary and human health are intricately and inextricably connected, which food regime theory must better account for. I conclude by proposing that the explanatory potential of the contemporary third regime is being stretched, with contested trajectories and nascent contours raising questions around how we might understand quite what we are living through today.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)318-327
Number of pages10
JournalThe Geographical Journal
Issue number3
Early online date14 Jul 2021
Publication statusPublished - 8 Aug 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author would like to thank the Themed Section guest editors for their guidance and engagement with earlier versions of the paper, as well as the enormously constructive comments of an anonymous peer reviewer, which helped to improve the paper considerably. This research was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council (grant reference ES/T007206/1) and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BB/V004719/1). All remaining errors are mine.

Publisher Copyright:
The information, practices and views in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG). © 2021 The Authors. The Geographical Journal published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers)


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