INTD 200 Chapter Notes -Nationstates, 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, Malthusianism

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3.8 Famine 12/5/12 1:21 AM
‘Famine’ can be defined as a widespread and protracted disruption in access
to food, which will result in acute malnutrition and mass mortality unless
alternative sources of food are available.
Historical Famine Trajectories
Pre 20th century: triggered by natural disasters
o Vulnerable: weak markets, underdevelopment, undiversified
livelihoods, no food aid
19th century: reduced famine due to
o increased transportation
o integrated societies
o nation-states
o India: strengthened political accountability for famine
prevention; improved food production
o Africa: “war famines”, political instability
Theories of Famine
1. Malthusianism
Thomas Malthus
Population will eventually exceed global production capability
Famine intervenes to regulate population
2. Economics and Sen’s Entitlement Approach
A person’s entitlement to food derives from four sources:
production, trade, labour, gifts
Famine is determined by failures of access to food
Poverty and market failures
3. Politics: Famine as ‘act of man’
Famines affect people who are politically and economically
Famines are related to lack of democracy
o Free, vigilant press
o Free and fair elections
‘Anti-famine contract’
The role of aid donors
o Food aid as a political weapon
War and ‘Complex Political Emergencies’
Famines as a war tactic
Can also be created as an unintended consequence of conflict
Conflicts disrupt agricultural production
War undermines food marketing
Relief interventions are undermined by logistical constraints and
security risks
Future Famines
Less widespread and less severe
Exacerbated by:
o Flawed processes of economic liberalization and political
o Rising prevalence of HIV/AIDS
o Problematic relationships between national governments and
international donors
Caused by failures of:
o The weather
o ‘coping strategies’
o markets
o local politics
o notional governments
o the international community
All famines are fundamentally political
Famines and Other Crises 12/5/12 1:21 AM
Causation of Famines
The substantive freedom of the individual and the family to
establish ownership over an adequate amount of food
o Growing it themselves
o Buying it on the market
A person may be forced into starvation due to inability to buy food
Even when food supply in a country falls sharply, everyone can be
saved through better distribution of food
The focus should be on economic power and freedom of individuals to buy
enough food.
Entitlement and Interdependence
Undernourishment, starvation and famine are influenced by the
working of the entire economy and society
Economic and social interdependences
Food has to be earned
“entitlement”: the commodities over which she can establish her
ownership and command
What determines entitlement?
o Endowment: the ownership over productive resources as well
as wealth that commands a price in the market
! Labour power, land, other resources
o Production possibilities and their use: available technologies
o Exchange Conditions: the ability to sell and buy goods and
the determination of relative prices of different products
! Operation of labour markets
! Can change drastically in an economic emergency
Distributional change
Interdependencies must be noted because the loss of certain parts
of the flow will lead to loss in other parts of the flow
Famine Causation
For those who do not produce food:
o Economic circumstance
o Employment
o Wage rates
o Production of other commodities
o Market prices