Tipping the Scales: A New Understanding of Food’s Power in the Political Sphere

By Christian John Reynolds.

Published by The Social Sciences Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Food has the potential to become a dominant political issue worldwide. This proposition is evident from the breadth of writing on both the political economy of food and interest groups’ usage of food. Yet there has been little discussion of how the political sphere comprehends and utilises food culture and food economics as tools for coercion.

Food is a medium for provoking change in political issue areas and policy. This paper investigates the understandings of food in the political arena, exploring the dichotomy between the cultural-symbolic and the political-economic definitions of food that are employed within the political sphere.

This understanding of food is complimented by an exploration of the theories behind political power, drawing upon Morgenthau’s Realist tradition and synthesising it with Nye’s modern concept of Soft power to create a framework in which the economic and cultural aspects of food’s political power can be examined.

Hard power, Soft power and their hybrid, the power of Prestige, will be discussed through an examination of the various political actors (such as States, Non-governmental organisations and individuals) in the political sphere. Their capabilities to employ food as an instrument of political power will also be discussed. Real world examples will further illustrate political power of food in a modern globalised context.

Keywords: Food Power, Soft Power, Hard Power, Power of Prestige, Food Studies, Gastronomy, Food Politics, Food Aid, Diplomatic Gastronomy

International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Volume 5, Issue 7, pp.295-304. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 613.820KB).

Christian John Reynolds

PhD Candidate, Division of Education, Arts and Social Sciences, University of South Australia, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

Christian Reynolds has just completed his Honours Degree in International Studies at the University of Adelaide. His research topic concerned the political power of food in international relations. In 2008, Christian graduated from the University of Adelaide with a double degree in Economics and International Studies, reading part of this program of study at Newcastle University, UK.


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