Reply To: Mon 17 Feb: World Systems, History and Ecology

Author Replies # Posted on February 18, 2014 at 15:51

Reflection (17 February) by Yaqi Fu

“Cheap food” I think is one of the most interesting topics and ideas in Moore J.W.’s three articles. In “Cheap food and Bad Money”, he poses the concept of “four cheaps” which means cheap food, energy, raw materials and labor. While his focus is mainly on the issue of cheap food, He agrees with the claim that “the ‘end of cheap food’ has arrived”. This prediction seems quite horrible to most of us. What’s the foundation of such judgment? Until the time we get out off the benefit of “cheap” food, how did it happen once in history?

According to Moore J.W., capitalism is bound with cheap food, for “Every great wave of capitalist development has been paved with ‘cheap’ food” (The End of the Road, 389). To achieve cheap food, it’s necessary to have an agricultural revolution. In the history of capitalism as he viewed, after certain agricultural revolution, there would be some food surplus in at least certain range of countries and these countries were preferably to gain hegemony in the wave of capitalism. I think the logic is like what I interpret above. From this logic maybe the last hope of cheap food lies on the burst of agricultural revolution. Moore J.W. puts this hope on the era’s greatest economic ‘miracle’ China and his answer to this hope is apparently pessimistic. As he said “there is little to suggest that China is on the brink of an agricultural revolution that will not only feed the world, but lead capitalism to a new golden age” (The End of the Road, 402)

I feel his logic is a little misleading and dangerous. Is agricultural revolution so powerful as the nuclear weapon in North Korea that will not only save the world, but lead capitalism to a new golden age? Actually I can not believe it and do not want it. If the world is becoming more and more democratic or towards such direction, the responsibility of cheap food is neither proper to be still put on certain countries, nor possible on the miracle of a revolution. Even the pursue of cheap food is suspicious for it reveals the mechanism of neoliberalism or historical capitalism that “redistribution from poor to rich” (Cheap food and Bad Money, 234). Surplus then becomes cheap and fosters rich, while “making a famine where abundance lies”.

Maybe it arrives the time to stop the pursue of cheap food and do not want some radical changes as well. What we need is to reflect ourselves twice, or even three or more, to make sure fairness and justice when we do anything anywhere, to prepare to live a simple life as one can and to suppress the lust of enjoyment in our mind growing as revolution.