SOC808 WEEK 5
This week we will look at historical origins of the modern food system. As we
discussed earlier, sociology tends to look at the “big picture” and follows a systems
view. Changes in the food system reflect changes in the ecological, social and
demographic trends and economic and political structures of the society. What have
people been eating, how they have been producing what they ate, who has been
involved in this process, how the products are distributed have changed over time.
By reviewing these changes we will be able to understand what is unique about the
way we produce and distribute food in the modern society.
Let us begin with the big picture, that we call a food system.
A food system refers to complex web of social relations, processes, structures and
institutional arrangements that cover human interaction with nature and with other
humans throughout the food cycle from production to consumption and even further.
Evolution of Food systems:
The ways human societies produced, distributed and consumed food have presented
great diversity throughout history.
Human societies survived on different parts of the world for thousands of years.
While our knowledge of the earliest periods is very limited available evidence
allow us to speculate that until about 10,000 years ago, what is know as the
Neolithic period, these societies survived as hunters and gatherers. Remnants of
hunting and gathering societies survived until recent times in remotest parts of
the world giving us some insights on living conditions in these societies.
Most of us mistakenly adhere to a rather unilinear understanding of progress,
imagining that history has been one smooth transition from the past to present.
Historical and anthropological evidence, however, question this one track model
of development. For this reason, we need to examine how different civilizations
responded to ecological, social and political pressures they faced; what solutions
they implemented; and how these solutions played role in their survival or
disappearance as a society in history.
In their struggle for survival, human societies rely on their culture to transmit past
knowledge and new innovations to future generations. Lacking the pre-
programmed instincts that help many animals to survive w