Reforming and Counter-Hegemonic Attitudes in Regimes and Niches of Food Systems in Transition: The Normative Valuation of Food As Explanatory Variable

67 Pages Posted: 23 Nov 2016

Date Written: November 22, 2016


The food system, the most important driver of planetary transformation, is in a deep crisis. Therefore, seeking a sustainable and socially-fair transition pathway becomes an issue of utmost priority for our own survival within planetary boundaries. The consideration of food as a commodity, a social construct that played a central role in driving this crisis, remains the uncontested narrative to lead the different transition pathways what seems rather contradictory. By exploring the normative values in the transition landscape, this paper seeks to understand how relevant is the hegemonic narrative of "food as a commodity" and its alternative of "food as a commons" to determine transition trajectories and food policy beliefs. Applying the Multi-level Perspective framework and developing the ill-studied "agency in transition", this research has enquired food-related professionals that belong to an online community of practice (N=95) on valuation of food dimensions, position in the food system and political attitude so as to check whether the valuation of food is relevant to explain personal stances in transition. Results suggest the socially-constructed view of food as a commodity is positively correlated to the gradual reforming attitude, whereas food as a commons is positively correlated to the counter-hegemonic transformers regardless the self-defined position in the transition landscape (regime or niches). At personal level, there are multiple loci of resistance with counter-hegemonic attitudes in varied institutions of the regime and the innovative niches, many of them holding this discourse of food as commons. Conversely, alter-hegemonic attitudes are not positively correlated to this alternative discourse and they may inadvertently or purportedly reinforce the "neoliberal narrative" since they do not question the neoliberal rules to allocate food as a commodity. Food as a commons, with a public good dimension explained in the paper, seems to be a relevant framework that could enrich the multiple transformative narratives that challenge the industrial food system and therefore facilitate the convergence of movements that reject the commodification of food.

Keywords: food valuation, food as commons, food as commodity, transition theory, narratives of transition, agency in transition, transformative agency, counter-hegemonic attitudes, gradual reformers,

JEL Classification: A13, H4, H00, P32, Q01, Q02, Q18

Suggested Citation

Vivero Pol, Jose Luis, Reforming and Counter-Hegemonic Attitudes in Regimes and Niches of Food Systems in Transition: The Normative Valuation of Food As Explanatory Variable (November 22, 2016). Available at SSRN: or

Jose Luis Vivero Pol (Contact Author)

Catholic University of Louvain (UCL) ( email )

Place Montesquieu, 3
Louvain-la-Neuve, 1348
32 10474646 (Phone)


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