Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Sizing up the food movement

"July 17, 2010 -- Socialist WebZine -- How can we change the world? This is the question that socialists face in the 21st century. It certainly offers more possibilities than the one presented in the mid-1990s that asked whether we had reached the end of history. However, capitalism is also attempting to provide an answer to this question by offering individualised ways to change the world. Food is an important arena for this project – corporations insist that eating the right food or drinking the right coffee can really make a difference in the world.

Behind the antiseptic choices offered by the system, lies the storm and stress of capitalism. Corporations chasing each other across the world in search of profits, workers being squeezed for ever lower wages and natural resources being monopolised and spoiled. Old wine in a new bottle – a certified organic 100% post-consumer recycled bottle, but the same old bitter wine. In the process, a world transformed is neatly reduced to an individual act of consumption that serves to substitute itself for any bonds of solidarity or affinity. Personal choices about which corporate products to consume become the only acceptable avenue for “politics”, a term now used to discuss which products corporations offer instead of examining the consequences of the very existence of corporations themselves.

No food item better demonstrates capitalism’s ability to quietly adapt to and create consumption patterns while shielding consumers from the transformative nightmares it engenders than soy. The seemingly innocent jiggly glob of crushed soybeans has caught the attention of North American consumers looking toward a post-meat world. Its pristine white colour radiates goodness, the plastic packaging it arrives in screams about good health and the imaginary hippie-style communal edginess is irresistible to the deeply alienated late capitalist consumer."

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