What role do science and scientists play in the transition between food regimes? Scientific communities are integral to understanding political struggle during food regime transitions in part due to the broader scientization of politics since the late 1800s. While social movements contest the rules of the game in explicitly value-laden terms, scientific communities make claims to the truth based on boundary work, or efforts to mark some science and scientists as legitimate while marking others as illegitimate. In doing so, scientific communities attempt to establish and maintain the privileged position of science in contests over policy. In this paper, we situate scientific boundary work within its world historical context in order to ask two key questions: (1) how does scientific boundary work vary across food regimes; and, in turn, (2) what role does scientific boundary work play in the political contestation that drives transitions between food regimes? We explore these questions through the case of one scientific community—the AOAC (Association of Official Analytical Communities)—involved in food safety regulation across the British, US, and corporate food regimes. We argue that scientific boundary work is shaped by historically specific patterns of social conflict within food regimes and, in particular, the double-movement dynamics that Polanyi (The great transformation: the political and economic origins of our times. Boston: Beacon, 1957) theorizes. Moreover, as scientific communities reconstruct their internal rules, norms, and procedures to claim their own legitimacy in relation to prevailing forms of social conflict, they also reshape who sets scientific agendas and thus the knowledge available for making new rules within periods of food regime transition. To elaborate this argument in theoretical terms, we build on recent efforts to integrate a neo-Polanyian perspective into food regime analysis and link this to research on scientific boundary work by scholars in science and technology studies.
Agriculture and Human Values – Springer Journals
Published: Dec 1, 2016
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