Week 1 01/09/2014
The Inimate Commodity
Marvin Harris: ‘ What is good to eat is good to sell’▯ commodification of food in capitalist era
Concepts of political economy
Use value is it unique?
Ex// Hammer you could use a rock to hammer a nail, but a hammer will do a much better job. Therefore
the hammer comes with a unique value
And exchange value?
The exchange value on hammers has gone down because of numerous factors. I.e they are now made in
History/anthropology of food
Corn and the Mayan mythology
Rice and eastern cultures
Do certain foods still occupy a privileged place in Canadian society?
Food , Status, and Inequality
Foods in medieval Europe
The lords of the lands controlled the animals on their lands and you would get your head cut off if you tried
to poach some of it.
Hindu caste culture: “a person acceptable for the table is acceptable for the marriage bed”
If someone was invited to family tables, it would be assumed they were suitable for a marriage partner or
else they wouldn’t be invitied
Foods/dietary inequalities today: nationally and internationally
Who gets to eat what, where Canada
Food “aid” and dietary transformation: case of American wheat and Public law 480 Law 480 wheat exportation internationally
hoped it would promote the American economy
free trade and food: Case of Mexico argo exports and corn imports
who gains, who loses?
Food: Dimension of Production
What is unique about the production of food vs. other commodities?
Special place of the farm and farming as site of production in our culture
Historical importance of agrarians
The agrofood complex: wy?
$ values of inputs and porcessing10X value of farm output by 1970’s
how is it organized?
How did it get this way ?
The question of power: what is it, who has it, what are their objectives, how are they exercising power, and
what are the main consequences for society
reality of asymmetrical power relationships
history and holism
The Rise of Agrarianism:
Clearing land of first nations peoples
Broken treaties and pressures of settlement
Destruction of the buffalo, war and genocide in the U.S Resistance, mass starvation and capitulation
The N.A of Bison: Mainstay of the people of the Great Plains
The Canadian Context
1878 Sir John A. MacDonals government▯ issue settlement of the west, they built a railroad to the pacific
( the American threat) and issued tariffs▯ national policy
Dominion lands act: quarter section for a nominal fee
Creating the CPR: 25 million acres land grant, 20 year monopoly▯ $ grant (scandal)
Settlement delayed: U.S more attractive, expensive transport, CPR monopoly, climate
Chief Poundmaker in Saskatchewan was negotiating Treaty Six with Government of Canada
When offered some land for farming:
Poundmaker protested: “this is our land! It isn’t a piece of pemmican to be cut off and given in little pieces
back to us
The marquis of wheat story
Red fiife variety dominant, but late maturing
Charles saunders crossed Hard Red Calcuta with Red Fife
Eventually produced the Marquis (1907) early maturing variety with high gluten content excellent for
By 1918 marquis planted on 20 million acres
Helped Canada establish as premier wheat exporting country
The turnaround: U.S land all filled up making saskatchewans population going from 91,000 in 1900 to
920,000 in 1930.
Early Agrarian Organization in the East:
Inspiration of American grain farmers with National grange of the Patrons of Husbandry
Dominion Grange (1870’s) in London, Ontarion▯ Mild agrarian populism. 01/09/2014
The First technological revolution in agriculture 01/09/2014
Early Agrarian Organization in the East
Inspiration of American grain farmers with National Grande of the Patrons of Husbandry
Concerns: railroad and grain handling monopolies
Dominion Grange (1870’s) in London Ontario▯ mild agrarian populism
Reluctance to enter politics nonpartisan political orientation
Farm membership only
Shift in protest to the west: why?
People from Europe
Single commodity dependence
There was no banks in the praries, which made it hard for farmers to get bank loans to buy land.
Brings regional identity▯ the maritimes, quebec, the first nations people, the praries
“raw” capitalism of the 1990’s ▯ very exploited
no unemployment insurance
grain company CPR collusion 01/09/2014
precariousness of farming
influence of American radical agrarianism (Non Partisan League) + radical labour politics in UK
The second technological revolution in agriculture
Pulleys and leavers
As an ideology that “pits a virtuous and homogeneous people against a set of elites and dangerous ‘others’
who were together depicted as depriving (or attempting to deprive) the soverign people of their rights,
values, prosperity, identity and voice”
Leader, community/people, leader=people
Shift of agrarian protest to the west: prairie populism
Populism: a core phenomenon of Canadian political life both historically, and today ?
Mixes core political ideologies of socialism, liberalism and conservatism
Opposition to elites (political and/or economic), advocates more power to ‘the people’ then the ‘producers of
What are the roots of right and left wing populism?
Saskatchewan versus Alberta
C.B McPherson ▯ looking at the difference as the result of your existence of being a rancher or a farmer.
They give rise to different mentalities and political orientations
Ranching tends to be more individualistic and own more land, and have a rural labor force (hire outside the
Farmers hire their family members, or get their family involved . collective orientation
Left wing populism
Focus on capitalist elites and their allies in mainstream political parties (liberals and conservatives)
Favour active government; public enterprise, strong labour movement
‘the people’ as coalition of farmers, workers, the poor, progressive intellectuas
ex// united farmers of Canada, cooperative commonwealth federation (CCF)
Right wing populism
Hostile to political elites, state bureaucrats (big government), ‘special interests’, state intervention,
occasionally financial interests
Individualism, libertarianism, private initiative versus state or public initiatives.
May have strong fundamental religious or nationalist elements with leadership cult (German Nazi Party)
Ex// W. (bible bill) Aberhart’s Social Credit in Alberta, Maurice Duplessis and Union National Party
(Quebec), Reform Party in 1990’s
Tea Party populism (US) and “Ford Nation” today? Why do they appeal? 01/09/2014
Severe economic recession
High youth unemployment up to 50% in Southern Europe
Rise of neofascists: Greece, Hungary, Italy, Austria (more of western Europe and some parts of eastern
Shift of Agrarian Protest to the West: Prairie Populism
Crisis in grain handling 19011902
E.A (Edward) Partridge: the spark of Western Protes
Partridge initiates Territorial Grain Growers Association to address collusion of grain companies and
railroads to try to get a better deal or solution
Success in amending Manitoba Grain Act▯ first major success agree in principal to establish line of grain
elevators as a public utility
Widening the Agrarian Influence
Partridge proposes coop. selling enterprise + agrarian newspaper (Grains Growers Guide) Why
significant?> creating a counter hegemony (leadership/ dominance) the ideology that prevails in society at
any given time that there is a dominance, and a way that a society is best organized
Visits Winnipeg Grain Exchange to better understand farmers’ problems (“3 million co. s and five export
firms’) ▯ strengthens his resolve re: cooperatives
Why Farmer Cooperatives?
“combines” of banks, grain companies and railroads
avoiding power grabs
establishment of Grain Grower Grain Co
resistance from Provincial Governments and private grain interests
success of grain companies linked to failure of provinces to meet demands for nationalization of economy
(banks, railroads, oil, telephone, etc. )
persisting problems of grain speculation▯ federal refusal to set up government central selling agency 01/09/2014
Farmers established a wheat “pool” to sell their grain abroad avoid speculation of grain traders
By the late 1920’s farmer owned cooperation’s control ½ of grain storage▯ Alberta, Saskatchewan and
Manitoba Wheat Pools.
The did go into crisis when the depression happened
Legacy of the Partridge:
Overcoming personal tragedy
Driving force in establishing cooperativism in Canada
Cooperatives today ?
Responsible for the radicalization of agrarian protest (necessary)
Rare visionary: could transform far reaching ideas into workable, durable enterprise (very rare quality)
All but forgotten today due to burning of records.
Farmer Labour Government in Ontario
A context of volatility
Conscription in 1917 for WWI
Newly formed UFO wins 44 seats and minority government
Alliance with labour to govern
Issue of leadership
Contradictions of the United Farmers of Ontario