Disturbing the Modern Plantation: How COVID-19 is Reinforcing the Food Supply Chain’s Function as a Social Sorting Tool

Posted: 9 Nov 2021

See all articles by Stephen Wilks

Stephen Wilks

University Detroit Mercy School of Law

Date Written: November 8, 2021

Abstract

This paper captures the plight of workers within the U.S. food supply chain. It describes the zero-sum thinking in our social discourse about the food and agricultural workers well call heroes. This thinking presumes the miseries of their marginalization as essential workers are somehow essential to society’s survival and that we use the language as a self- soothing device to put moral distance between ourselves and those our dependencies actively marginalize. The discussion begins by canvassing statistical data outlining the structure and composition of this workforce as well as the nature of their working conditions. It examines how the impeachment fight and China’s trade war with China factored in the slow U.S. response to the pandemic before chronicling covid19’s immediate impacts – all of which produce dramatic supply chain disruptions. The paper links these disruptions to law’s role in narrowly limiting the autonomy of workers inside the food supply chain while giving license to anti-lockdown protests. The paper culminates in an argument about heroism’s role in glossing over these disparate treatments of autonomy as a kind of balm that both essentializes and ignores oppression.

Suggested Citation

Wilks, Stephen C., Disturbing the Modern Plantation: How COVID-19 is Reinforcing the Food Supply Chain’s Function as a Social Sorting Tool (November 8, 2021). Cornell Journal of Law and Public Policy, Vol. 30, No. 3, 2021, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3959351

Stephen C. Wilks (Contact Author)

University Detroit Mercy School of Law ( email )

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Detroit, MI 48226
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