My thanks to the editors of this special issue for very helpful suggestions.
The Accelerating Biophysical Contradictions of Industrial Capitalist Agriculture
Article first published online: 21 JUN 2010
© 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd
Journal of Agrarian Change
Special Issue: Productive Forces in Capitalist Agriculture: Political Economy and Political Ecology
Volume 10, Issue 3, pages 315–341, July 2010
How to Cite
WEIS, T. (2010), The Accelerating Biophysical Contradictions of Industrial Capitalist Agriculture. Journal of Agrarian Change, 10: 315–341. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-0366.2010.00273.x
- Issue published online: 21 JUN 2010
- Article first published online: 21 JUN 2010
- agricultural productivity;
- biophysical overrides;
- fossil energy;
- climate change
The productivity of industrial capitalist agriculture is central to dominant development narratives. It is also highly unstable, with intractable biophysical problems created in the substitution of labour, skill and knowledge with technology, and overridden with unsustainable ‘technological fixes’ and masked by a host of externalized costs. Relatively cheap oil is central to this, effectively subsidizing the low-priced industrial grains and oilseeds on which global food security has come to hinge. However, the chronic biophysical contradictions of industrial capitalist agriculture are accelerating, at the same time as the surge in biofuels has augmented the still-rising demand of livestock feed to embolden industrial producers. A period of acute and ominously regressive food price volatility looms in the short term, with more ruinous outcomes ahead. But this might also widen openings for rebuilding biodiverse food systems and remaking and valorizing agricultural work, which will involve rethinking agriculture's place in conceptions of development and modernity.