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A Critique of Localist Political Economy and Urban Agriculture

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Abstract In the Global North, Urban Agriculture (UA) is being considered as a way to overcome malnutrition and promote local, ethical production. UA can be understood through two phenomena integral to the capitalist mode of production: capital centralisation and rent. Centralisation explains why capitalist agriculture industrialises, while rent provides a theoretical framework for understanding how social and spatial relations structure urban land uses. Urban farming can occupy niches of the capitalist marketplace; however, its prospects for replacing large-scale agriculture and providing similar use-values are limited. Its expansion is bounded by rising land values expressed in rent, as Detroit’s urban farm, Markham’s food belt, Los Angeles’s community garden, and initiatives in other cities demonstrate. The key tasks for political ecologists are two-fold: situating UA within capital’s drive to accumulate and proposing strategic perspectives that challenge these inherent tendencies.

Affiliations: 1: Institute for Social Sciences, Gyeongsang National University Jinju South Korea


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