Cultivating Agricultural Resistance: Alternative Farming as Slow Modernity

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Virginia Tech


Contemporary methods of food production in the United States have become undeniably destructive ecologically.  Two of the strongest symbols of that destruction from corporate industrial agriculture are CAFOs (Confined Animal Feeding Operations) and monoculture crop production.  This thesis seeks to find examples of producers refusing these methods as well as what motivates those producers to refuse, and what that refuse could mean politically.  The project is grounded theoretically in the work of critical theorists, especially Herbert Marcuse, because the Frankfurt School's criticism of instrumental rationality and understanding of domination functions to elucidate the societal conditions that allow for agricultural (over)production to be swept up in problematic methods in the name of efficiency.

Part I starts by analyzing academic as well as popular discourses of CAFOs and the historical process of industrializing meat production and agriculture in the United States.  Here both corporate capitalism and enlightenment rationality are indicted and Marcuse's theories are put to work to set up what is being refused. Part II uses examples of organic and local food to provide an understanding for how consumption centered refusals can be co-opted by corporate interest.  Part III seeks out contemporary refusals that go past 'green consumerism' and foster a "new sensibility" that is grounded in a sense of place, ecological cooperation with nature, and refuses corporatism.  In this new sensibility there is a direct rejection of the instrumental rationality, the profit motive and exploitation of nature.



Critical Theory, Capitalism, Agriculture