Jesse's Reviews > The Food Wars

The Food Wars by Walden Bello
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Apr 18, 11

Read from April 10 to 18, 2011

A former US Secretary of Agriculture, John Block, once said, "The idea that developing countries should feed themselves is an anachronism from a bygone era." Ideologically, he is saying, "The idea that developing countries in the post-colonial era should consider themselves politically independent from their former masters will be resisted with the utmost vigilance by the world's economic power centers." This is the premise for Walden Bello's outstanding survey, The Food Wars. During the developmentalist era (post WWII but prior to neoliberalism), political independence in the third world yielded a surprising result: public subsidies and domestic planning were yielding huge gains in productivity rates. Unfortunately, this contradicted the semen-encrusted theory of the global elite (comparative advantage), which made them so mad they had to make a new theory (neoliberalism). The theory needed a practitioner, and so the IMF metamorphosed from a developmentalist champion into its greatest enemy by endorsing "structural adjustment programs" around the world. To understand the devastation, Bello takes the reader on a world tour. One of the stops is in Africa: this continent was self-sufficient in terms of food production due to public subsidies by 1970, but by 2009, thanks to its privatization schemes, it was importing 25% of its grain from the Western powers (so that's what LiveAid was about! If Bono is around, you know not to trust it!). Structural adjustment, a euphemism that means, you will suck a golden penis and be thankful, favored large-scale, capital-intensive agriculture as opposed to the peasant way, but "'research shows that small farms are much more productive than large farms if total output is considered rather than yield from a single crop.'" Millions, however, are being dispossessed, dislocated, and left to starve because of unwillingness to understand this; it is, however, clear why, as Bello points out, since repeasantization of the world's land, though it would give us sustainability, would seriously call into question the economic theory currently manhandling the world and favored by the elite. This book, then, is a timely primer for concerned global citizens on one of the most important and devastating topics confronting the world today.

(Note to fellow reviewers: the rating system is not meant to declare your inability to understand a book. One does not give Euclid one star because the proofs were too hard to follow. If you don't understand a book, please don't rate it!)
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message 1: by Chris (new)

Chris But you yourself said the greatest virtue is clarity. Now Euclid makes sense in your claim, but for a contemporary author to be pedantic and/or incomprehensible, well then, he/she can suffer a lost star! Rightfully so.


Jesse Charlatanry deserves star loss, but never the difficulty of ideas, no matter how complex. As far as clarity goes, one cannot claim something is poorly said when one doesn't understand the complexity of an argument, so I consider star loss for lack of clarity impossible (some books are for lay readers, some are technical; you can't poorly rate a technical book for not being designed for the lay reader).


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