Journal of International Development Studies
Online ISSN : 2434-5296
Print ISSN : 1342-3045
A Theoretical Framework to Analyze the Capitalist Food System: From Food Regime to the Financialisation of Food and Agriculture
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2019 Volume 28 Issue 1 Pages 19-37


The half-century's effort to increase food supply has not solved the world food problems, and “Zero Hunger” remains to be the second goal of the Sustainable Development Goals. This paper aims to suggest a theoretical framework to analyze food and agriculture that are embedded in the capitalist world economy. It first reviews research trends of the capital appropriation of agriculture, agri-food business analysis, and the Food Regime frameworks, as well as the recent discussions on the financialisation of food and agriculture. Then, the paper discusses the historical case of Japan by positioning it in the Food Regime frameworks; how Japan's modern food system has developed along its capitalist development since the 19th century. It reveals the policy decisions of Japan's modern nation state and its effort to accumulate capital, together with large Japanese capital of Zaibatsu (the origins of some sogo-shosha), contributed to build modern industries of flour-milling, vegetable oil refining, and sugar manufacturing. As Japan opened its market in the middle of the 19th century, it began importing wheat flour, which had become a world commodity in the First Food Regime. Japan itself contributed to promote soy as a world commodity in the First Food Regime in the Asian context. Then, Japan established modern sugar industry based on its colonial crop in Taiwan. After WW2, these industries, together with sogo-shosha, incorporated Japan's food system into the US-centred agri-food complexes in the Second Food Regime. In the current Global Corporate Food Regime, Japan's sogo-shosha and large food-related companies have been expanding their business abroad, especially to the growing economies of Asia. In conclusion, the theoretical frameworks for the capitalist food system are necessary to analyze the world food issues, as our food and agriculture have been deeply embedded into the capitalist power relations.

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© 2019 The Japan Society for International Development
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