The debate on food sovereignty theory: agrarian capitalism, dispossession and agroecology

K. Jansen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

80 Citations (Scopus)


This contribution reviews recent critiques of the food sovereignty framework. In particular it engages with the debate between Henry Bernstein and Philip McMichael and analyzes their different conceptualizations of agrarian capitalism. It critically identifies tendencies in food sovereignty approaches to assume a food regime crisis, to one-sidedly emphasize accumulation by dispossession and enclosure and thereby to overlook the importance of expanded reproduction, and to espouse a romantic optimism about farmer-driven agroecological knowledge which is devoid of modern science. Alternatives to current modernization trajectories cannot simply return to the peasant past and to the local. Instead, they need to recognize the desires of farmers to be incorporated into larger commodity networks, the importance of industrialization and complex chains for feeding the world population, and the support of state and science, as well as social movements, for realizing a food sovereign alternative.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-232
JournalThe Journal of Peasant Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • organic agriculture
  • latin-america
  • gm crops
  • accumulation
  • technology
  • question
  • poor
  • 21st-century
  • revolution
  • knowledge


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