Hungry Capital: The Financialization of Food
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Over the past thirty years, the ability of global finance to affect aspects of everyday life has been increasing at an unprecedented rate. The world of food bears vivid testimony to this tendency, through the scars opened by the 2008 world food price crisis, the iron fist of retailing giants that occupy the supply chain and the unsustainable ecological footprint left behind by global production networks.
Hungry Capital offers a rigorous analysis of the influence that financial imperatives exert on the food economy at different levels: from the direct use of edible commodities as an object of speculation to the complex food chains set up by manufacturers and supermarkets. It argues that the circular compulsion to build profits upon profits that global finance injects into the world of food restructures the basic nurturing relationship between man and nature into a streamlined process from which value has to be mined. The end result is a monstrous Leviathan that holds together while – at every step – risks to crumble.
the edges of different function systems. In particular, despite each following its own recursive, self-referential logic, the financial and the economic system remain open to one another through the weaving of relations taking place in in-between fields of actors that, by “[c]ombining different logics of actions, […] mediate between autonomous function systems.”99 In this respect, such networks feature entities like accounting standards that streamline the provision of financial information,
way to keep sustaining a fragile industrialized food system. The Third Regime The Third World debt crisis was caused by abundant loans being made available to Third World countries to finance their imports. The money for such loans came from oil exporting nations, that accumulated dollar reserves during the oil price hike of the 1970s. The Third World debt crisis occurred, therefore, through the failure of the Bretton Woods system, which—put in place after World War II—consisted of an
volatility—has also been described as a further side-effect of index speculation. Index speculation— as I explain further in the following section—induces price dynamics that are unrelated to market fundamentals. Consequently, futures markets are less able to function on information about economic fundamentals and this uncertainty translates into increased volatility that, in turn, attracts participants like money managers, who are interested precisely in exploiting “price swings rather than
and Better Markets: Toward a New Understanding of How Markets Function and the Role They Serve in Society (Washington D.C.: Better Markets, 2010), 50, http://bit.ly/frenk_masters (accessed July 23, 2012). 29 Masters and White, How Institutional Investors Are Driving Up Food And Energy Prices, 34. 30 Kerckhoffs, van Os, and Vander Stichele, Financing Food: Financialisation and Financial Actors in Agriculture Commodity Markets, 4. 31 Ghosh, “The Unnatural Coupling: Food and Global Finance,”
Food and Agriculture, 206–207. 9 Tudge, Feeding People is Easy, 58. 10 Henry Bernstein, “ ‘The Peasantry’ in Global Capitalism: Who, Where and Why?,” Socialist Register 37 (2001): 27. 11 Ibid., 28. 12 David Goodman and Michael Redclift, Refashioning Nature: Food, Ecology and Culture (London: Routledge, 1991), 71. 13 Ibid., 96. 14 Bernstein, “ ‘The Peasantry’ in Global Capitalism: Who, Where and Why?,” 35–36. 15 Ploeg, The New Peasantries, 39 & 42, quoting John Harriss, Rural