The 10th International Critical Management Studies (CMS) Conference – CMS 2017

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The 10th International Critical Management Studies (CMS) Conference – CMS 2017

July 3, 2017 @ 8:00 am - July 5, 2017 @ 5:00 pm

Reorganising the neo-liberal food system: Evolution, Rebellion or Revolution?

Call for papers

Submissions to this conference stream should be a 500-word abstract which demonstrates how it addresses the topic of the research stream as indicated below illustrating a theoretical/empirical contribution to the topic. The word limit excludes references.

The deadline for submission of abstracts is January 31, 2017. Please submit the abstract by sending it to the lead convener by email. If you have queries regarding your submission please feel free to email the conveners.

The acceptance of abstracts will be communicated by February 27, 2017.

Click here for more information about the conference stream


Gillian Hopkinson (lead convener), Lancaster University

Dave Watson, University of East Anglia

Isabelle Szmigin, University of Birmingham,

On one hand the neo-liberal food system can be considered highly efficient. This system of production and distribution has produced higher yields, and lower food prices in real terms, as well being highly profitable for organisations and, latterly, futures traders (Clapp, 2014). On the other hand, it has been criticised for a narrow view of what constitutes efficiency. The organisation of the food system around the primary goal of profit accumulation has also produced obesity alongside persistent undernourishment (Alexandratos & Bruinsma, 2012), and environmental degradation contributing to climate change (IAASTD, 2009). Meanwhile there is a concentration of wealth and power in a small number of trans-national agri-food corporations at the expense of individual producer and consumers (Halweil, 2002, p. 25). This state of affairs has given rise to counter tendencies, apparently expressing discontent and a desire to change the food system for the better (Allen, 2010).

Whilst few could disagree with this sentiment, the question of how to re-organise the food system in a ‘better’ way remains. The call for some sort of ‘food revolution’ to address contemporary problems in our food systems is not new, but it is contested. Specifically, proposals differ in terms of what is to be changed, who is to take action to bring the change about and whether this will be at the individual, civil or political level as well as the means through which that change will be achieved.

Prominent claims to revolution include The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, which is backed by the Gates Foundation. This envisages increased farm productivity and livelihoods through a re-run of the technological farming solutions applied in the original green revolution. The need to boost productivity and ensure food security underpins the argument behind this approach, undermining claims of ‘greenness’ (Tomlinson, 2011). Opponents, however, point out that the world already produces more than enough food for its growing population and point to the need to revolutionise the political economy instead of technological innovation (HoltGiménez, Shattuck, Altieri, Herren, & Gliessman, 2012). Others are concerned with consumers’ dwindling knowledge of food production, nutrition and cookery (Meyer, Coveney, Henderson, Ward, & Taylor, 2012; Thompson & Coskuner‐Balli, 2007). Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution aims to equip people with the requisite knowledge to act as responsible consumers in food markets, taking an educational approach.

A plethora of so called alternative food movements have rebelled against the dominant food system. They reflect a multitude of issues of concern and modes of organisation. Gleaning and dumpster diving networks link up to those concerned with re-distributing food to address undernutrition and food waste. Alternative agriculture groups and famers markets reconnect producers and consumers, often promoting particular production standards of ethical production, such as organic. Meanwhile we are called on to act as individual citizens, to exercise our influence in the market by voting with each fork full. We are enabled to enact this change by a range of labelling and certification schemes designed to inform consumers. Armed with this information we are expected to make responsible buying choices and signal a desire for more accountable production thereby bringing about changes in the food system. Or so the argument goes.

Some ‘revolutions’ (e.g. Jamie Oliver) have been critiqued for lending support to the neo-liberal conceptualisation of the market. Other revolutions (e.g. Green Revolution for Africa) are critiqued because they favour the interests of particular commercial organisations. The actions of civil groups have been portrayed as more rebellious than revolutionary with limited potential to unsettle extant practice. The ability to vote through consumption tending to privilege the values and interests of the wealthy, without unsettling the dominant mode of production and consumption (Eden, Bear, & Walker, 2008, p. 1047). More fundamental re-organising of the food system through community-based food production can be understood as a quiet revolution in the way that it defies the standard market model (Boehm, Mizocsky, Watson & Lanka). Instead, it offers a ‘special emphasis on creating and building community around the interwoven issues of food, land and nature’. (Hinrichs, 2000, p.299) Approaches to change differ then. From those that are evolutionary offering no fundamental change to revolutions aiming to upturn the faith in markets and replace economic values with social and/or environmental values through other methods of organisation.

We welcome papers that critically examine our contemporary food system, the problems it generates and/or the range of initiatives that seek to address its current deficiencies. In particular we hope to explore questions about who might bring about change, the extent of change that might be brought about, the interests served by change and who is/should be responsible for change. In short, can and will deficiencies be addressed through continued evolution of industry, through the rebellious acts of individuals or civic society or might these amount to a full-blown revolution?

We welcome papers from any discipline that critically explores our food systems and the possibilities of change. We encourage contributors to engage with the food system at the political level, as well as the social, cultural and economic level. Contributors may consider any aspects of the food system and approaches to change and take a theoretical or empirical approach. Questions that might be addressed are not limited to but could include the following:

  • Critiques of current developments within the food system such as technological solutions, sustainable intensification, or the financialisation of commodities.
  • Case studies and practice-oriented discussions of approaches that challenge aspects of industrial agriculture, the global food system, the monopoly of supermarkets, etc. Contributions from practitioners welcome.
  • Alternative futures, the scale, limitations and social reach of forms of localism and biodynamic, craft, seasonal and cooperative production. To what extent do these alternatives disrupt and/or reproduce existing market relations and inequalities?
  • The role and identities of revolutionaries – who can lead change, how can they lead change, how do those engaged in alternative projects understand their role?
  • Industry responses to calls for change – how are acts of rebellion institutionalised, with what effect at to what end?
  • The values that underpin the dominant food system and how these might be challenged by ethical or moral understandings of food production and consumption practices?
  • What might a revolutionised food system look like? Are there other players that can help change the status quo?


July 3, 2017 @ 8:00 am
July 5, 2017 @ 5:00 pm
Event Category:



If you are a member of FRC and you wish to share information about food-related events in which you are involved, please write to the content editor of the website at