Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics

, Volume 25, Issue 4, pp 543–552

The Ethics of Food for Tomorrow: On the Viability of Agrarianism—How Far can it Go? Comments on Paul Thompson’s Agrarian Vision



I consider Paul Thompson’s Agrarian Vision from the perspective of the philosophy of technology, especially as it relates to certain questions about public engagement and deliberative democracy around food issues. Is it able to promote an attitudinal shift or reorientation in values to overcome the view of “food as device” so that conscientious engagement in the food system by consumers can become more the norm? Next, I consider briefly, some questions to which it must face up in order to move closer in dismantling the barriers that inhibit the capacity for virtuous caretaking of the food system at various levels. Lastly, and more deeply, how successful might agrarianism be in inculcating citizenship values (ones that go beyond food ethics as a private affair), for the democratization of agricultural technologies? Might the Jeffersonian foundation to which the agrarianism (a la) Thompson appeals need something like a contemporary theory of justice in order to facilitate the reconstitution of our politico-moral selves? How can it help guide appropriate ruminations on the intra and intergenerational question, “What do we want the shape of our current and future social and political institutions to look like in relation to food?”


Food ethics Philosophy of technology Commodification Sustainability Agrarianism 


  1. Allen, P. (1999). Reweaving the food safety net: Mediating entitlement and entrepreneurship. Agriculture and Human Values, 16, 117–129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Beekman, V. (2008). Consumer rights to informed choice on the food market. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, 11, 61–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Berry, W. (2002). How we grow food reflects our virtues and values. In G. Pence (Ed.), The ethics of food: A reader for the 21st century (pp. 12–43). Lanham, MA: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers.Google Scholar
  4. Berry, W. (2009). Bringing it to the table: On farming and food. Berkeley, CA: Counterpoint.Google Scholar
  5. Borgmann, A. (1984). Technology and the character of contemporary life: A philosophical inquiry. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  6. Borgmann, A. (1992). Crossing the post modern divide. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  7. Borgmann, A. (2006a). Real american ethics: Taking responsibility for our country. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  8. Borgmann, A. (2006b). Feenberg and the reform of technology. In T. Veak (Ed.), Democratizing technology: Andrew feenberg’s critical theory of technology (pp. 101–111). NY: SUNY Press.Google Scholar
  9. Buller, H. (2010). Palatable ethics. Environment and Planning A, 42, 1875–1880.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). (2009). The state of food and agriculture 2009: Towards a responsible livestock future. Rome.
  11. Heidegger, M. (1977). The question concerning technology and other essays (trans: William Lovitt). New York: Harper and Row.Google Scholar
  12. Ilea, R. C. (2009). Intensive livestock farming: Global trends, increased environmental concerns, and ethical solutions. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, 22, 153–167.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Pollan, M. (2006). The omnivore’s dilemma a natural history of four meals. New York: Penguin Press.Google Scholar
  14. Poppendieck, J. (1997). The USA: Hunger in the land of the plenty. In G. Riches (Ed.), First world hunger: Food security and welfare politics. London: MacMillan.Google Scholar
  15. Singer, P., & Mason, J. (2006). The ethics of what we eat: Why our food choices matter. USA: Rodale Inc., Holtzbrinck Publishers.Google Scholar
  16. Steinfeld, H., Gerber, P., Wassenaar, T., Castel, V., Rosales, M., & de Haan, C. (2006). Livestock’s long shadow: Environmental issues and options. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).Google Scholar
  17. Thompson, P. B. (1993). Animals in the agrarian ideal. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, 6(Special Supplement 1), 36–49.Google Scholar
  18. Thompson, P. B. (1995). Spirit of the soil: Agricultural and environmental ethics. London, NY: Routledge.Google Scholar
  19. Thompson, P. B. (2000). Thomas Jefferson and agrarian philosophy. In P. B. Thompson & T. C. Hilde (Eds.), The agrarian roots of pragmatism (pp. 118–139). Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Thompson, P. B. (2001). Reshaping Conventional agriculture: A north american perspective. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, 14(2), 217–229.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Thompson, P. B. (2006). Commodification and secondary rationalization. In T. Veak (Ed.), Democratizing technology: Andrew Feenberg’s critical theory of technology (pp. 112–135). Albany, NY: SUNY Press.Google Scholar
  22. Thompson, P. B. (2008). The ethics of intensification: agricultural development and cultural change (The International Library of Environmental, Agricultural and Food Ethics). Utrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.Google Scholar
  23. Thompson, P. B. (2010). The agrarian vision: Sustainability and environmental ethics. Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Wright, W., & Middendorf, G. (Eds.). (2008). The fight over food: Producers, consumers, and activists challenge the global food system. PA: Pennsylvania State University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of Alaska AnchorageAnchorageUSA

Personalised recommendations