As the world’s population grows and alternative values and interests come to light, the name- and facelessness of current approaches to agricultural production have become a point of contention and are less and representative of contemporary societal values (1). As a response, localism has become a standard component of emerging social and technological trends.
Localism in and of itself encompasses a unique approach to the use of technology and communication to regain a component of economic sovereignty in an increasingly complicated world where international agreements, treaties, and economic power structures dictate procedure and influence political priorities (2).
In this respect, localism does not necessarily demand the rejection of a globalized economy, but it does necessitate the redefinition of individual identities within a system of mass production. A significant component of this shift is the reintegration of a social element into production, a factor that has been stripped away by the rise of globalized trade and neoliberal economic strategies (2).
In a sense, this can be understood as the renegotiation of the social contract to incorporate ideas divergent from the individualistic ones that have been advocated by the government throughout the twentieth century. According to GRANOVETTER, this renegotiation is necessary because the economy and the institutions that facilitate its functionality have become increasingly differentiated and no longer incorporate or acknowledge the social bonds that have traditionally been integral to capacity building. Instead, there are merely “rational calculations of individual gain (3)”.
In other words, society is under-socialized. The lacking social component results in a deficiency of social capital. Without social capital, it becomes more difficult to establish trust, develop more holistic expectations, and to create and enforce norms in an ultimate effort to generate more socially equitable networks and bonds.
Within the food production system, alternative food networks promote localism
and serve as a means to reassert some semblance of control over the food production
system by focusing on the reintegration a social component into the food system
(4). This motivation is considered a strictly American phenomenon as the process is generally normative in its attempt to “wrest control from corporate agribusiness and create a domestic, sustainable and egalitarian food system (5)”.
To a less influential extent, AFNs are driven by farmers seeking a better price for their goods (6). However, fulfilling their objectives is dependent on demand and consumer demands are not universal, albeit generally linkable to their respective criticisms of agribusiness. For example, demand related to food scares is correlated with increased concern about the safety of food produced in industrialized settings, including issues with trust and problems with the use of Genetically Modified Organisms [GMOs], and helping to re-expand the chains of interdependence (7).
Others are more interested in food in general which has led consumers to learn more about the origins of their food (8). As consumers learn more about the food system, they are then more likely to seek out food products of higher quality (9). Better quality can be exemplified in a variety of ways ranging from improved animal welfare standards to social justice to environmental sustainability.
(1) Reynolds, L. & Szerszynski, B. (2012). Neoliberalism and technology: Perpetual
innovation or perpetual crisis?. In Neoliberalism and Technoscience: Critical
(2) Hess, D. (2012). The Green Transition, Neoliberalism, and the Technosciences. In
Neoliberalism and Technoscience: Critical Assessments, pp. 209-230.
(3) Granovetter, M. (1985). Economic Action and Social Structure: The Problem of
Embeddedness. American Journal of Sociology, 91(3), pp. 481-510.
(4) Goodman, D., Dupuis, E., & Goodman, M. (2014). Alternative Food Networks:
Knowledge, Practice and Politics.Oxon, New York: Routledge.
(5) Goodman D. (2003) The quality ‘turn’ and alternative food practices: Reflections and
agenda. Journal of Rural Studies, 19, pp. 1–7.
(6) Whatmore, S., & Clark, N. (2006). Good food: Ethical consumption and global change. In: Clark, N., Massey D., & Sarre P. (eds) A World in the Making. Milton
Keynes: The Open University, pp. 363–412.
(7) Sassatelli, R., & Scott, A. (2001). Novel food, new markets and trust regimes: NOVEL
FOOD, NEW MARKETS AND TRUST REGIMES: Responses to the erosion
of consumers’ confidence in Austria, Italy and the UK. European Societies, 3(2),
(8) Morgan K., Marsden T., & Murdoch J. (2006) Worlds of Food: Place, Power, and
Provenance in the Food Chain. Oxford: Oxford University Press
(9) Maye, D., Kirwan, J. (2010). Alternative food networks, Sociopedia.isa.