Marx as a Food Theorist

Marx as a Food Theorist,” Monthly Review, vol. 68, no. no. 7 (December 2016), pp. 1-22.

Food has become a core contradiction of contemporary capitalism. Discussions of the economics and sociology of food and food regimes seem to be everywhere today, with some of the most important contributions made by Marxian theorists. Amid plentiful food production, hunger remains a chronic problem, and food security is now a pressing concern for many of the world’s people.

Yet despite the severity of these problems and their integral relation to the capitalist commodity system, it is generally believed that Karl Marx himself contributed little to our understanding of food, beyond a few general comments on subsistence and hunger. In their 1992 introduction to The Sociology of Food, Stephen Mennell, Anne Murcott, and Anneke H. van Otterloo declared that “food as such is only of passing interest to Marx,” quipping that the only mention of “‘Diet’ in an index of Marx’s writings” referred “to a political assembly.”

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