Food and vulnerability in Aotearoa/New Zealand: A review and theoretical reframing of food insecurity, income and neoliberalism
Reynolds, David; Mirosa, Miranda; Campbell, Hugh
The incidence of food insecurity in rich countries has remained stubbornly consistent in recent decades, even as rates of undernourishment in poorer countries have dived since 1990 (United Nations, 2015). This article addresses this apparent contradiction through a theoretical reframing of food insecurity in rich liberal democracies, built on a review of key literature and data. We draw a broad distinction between critical social science approaches to engaging with food insecurity and more empirical, policy-oriented approaches. These produce research that emphasises, respectively, the determinate role of economic class and neoliberalism in generating food insecurity, and the wide array of other factors associated with suffering food insecurity. We argue that both offer useful but analytically confined accounts of food insecurity and its drivers in rich liberal democracies. We proceed, seeking to broaden rather than abandon the strengths of these two accounts, with a review of data on incomes and the incidence of food insecurity in the Aotearoa/New Zealand case. Our review reveals patterns of socio-political deprivation beyond class with parallels across both data sets, significantly along lines of gender and ethnicity. This both offers texturing specifics to a 'monolithic' generic view of neoliberalism and contextualises demographic trends of food insecurity within the neoliberalised "contours of contemporary political-economic power" (Peck and Tickell, 2002, pp.381-382). We subsequently argue for the utility of vulnerability as a concept to capture socio-political dynamics and engage with food insecurity in rich liberal democracies. The framing work done by the concept of vulnerability offers the opportunity to: (1) align the strengths of research approaches emphasising theoretically derived context and empirically founded complexity; (2) account for the consistencies and complexities observed in the relationship between the political-economic landscape of rich liberal democracies following the neoliberal turn and the incidence of food insecurity; and (3) reconsider the relationship between political-economic and socio-political contexts of rich liberal democracies that consistently produce food insecurity and groups of people who live and consistently suffer food insecurity in these countries, for example as "structural violence" (Shepherd, 2012, p.206).
Published in: New Zealand Sociology, volume 35, issue 1
Keywords: Food insecurity; Neoliberal; Vulnerability; Aotearoa/ New Zealand
Research Type: Journal Article