RC-40 pre-conference session: Tuesday 25th June 10.00-15.00

Convenors: Hilde Bjørkhaug: hilde.bjorkhaug@ruralis.no, Reidar Almås, Ruralis- Institute for rural and regional research, Steven Wolf, Cornell University

Financialization is the increased influence of financial actors and logics on social and economic life, and is one of the key drivers transforming food systems and rural economies around the world. Actions of financial actors, and their financial logics, are transforming agri-food systems in profound ways. It is shown that although financialization is a powerful dynamic, some recent developments suggest that the rollout of financialization is contradictory and uneven in different spaces and markets.

A recent book[1] revealed that financialized economic activities are not only being deployed by financial institutions, but also by national and private investment funds (SWFs) and state-backed organizations, for commercial purposes, for development, and for aid, among a host of other purposes. The 2008 food crisis changed agri-food policy rhetoric, turning what was previously considered ‘hidden’ protectionist policies of some Northern states into ‘food security’ discourse, where attempts were made to ensure a secure food supply in the face of global uncertainties. Some states have actively appropriated farmland abroad, while countries with food surpluses have supported financialization – within neoliberal globalization – as a mechanism to sell greater volumes of food in the global marketplace. Either way, the farming and food sectors have remained very attractive sites for investment.

Financialization of the agri-food system raises many ethical and moral questions. When nation states help to facilitate financialization it is important that they weigh up impacts upon small and medium scale farms and food businesses and those who occupy lands (either legally or illegally). The poor and least powerful can readily become more marginalized as financialization proceeds.

The proposed RC-40 mini-conference/pre-conference session invites scholars to give short presentations of current finacialisation research. The planned presentation format will be combined with generous time dedicated to open discussions on 1) the contours and impacts of the current, financialized, global agri-food system 2) urgent challenges and 3) future research needs.

[1] Bjørkhaug, H., A. Magnan & G. Lawrence (2018) The Financialization of Agri-Food Systems Contested Transformations. Routledge.