Revisiting Food Studies from a Political Ecology Perspective: Lessons from Mediterranean Agri-Food Systems

  • Ana Moragues-Faus


In the collective imagination, Mediterranean agri-food systems are based on small farms that expand through high nature value (HNV) landscapes, where farmers use traditional and culturally specific practices to produce foodstuffs that are recognized globally as part of the famous Mediterranean diet. However, the actual dynamics of the Mediterranean agri-food system reveal a much more complex and diverse reality, with distinct socionatural configurations—from highly intensive vegetable production to extensive cereal farms—which do not fit the stereotype and are seldom analysed in an integrated fashion (see Ortiz-Miranda et al. 2013). Not only are these historical socio-ecological systems being bypassed, but Mediterranean dynamics have struggled to fit into European agrarian change and rural development paradigms developed in the Anglo-Saxon tradition (which are the main influence behind European Union policies). This difficulty has prompted an image of ‘delay’ in Mediterranean countries, either in adopting productivist pathways (e.g. increasing the size of agricultural holdings) or in developing an internal market for organic products or urban food policies.


Food System Rural Development Civil Society Organization Political Ecology Ecological Modernization 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Aldanondo Ochoa, A., and V. Casanovas Oliva.2009. Análisis Espacial del Abandono de Explotaciones Agrarias en Navarra. Revista Española de Estudios Agrosociales y Pesqueros 222: 73–102.Google Scholar
  2. Allen, P., and J. Guthman.2006. From “Old School” to “Farm-to-School”: Neoliberalization from the Ground Up. Agriculture and Human Values 23(4): 401–415.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Arnalte-Alegre, E., and D. Ortiz-Miranda.2013. The “Southern Model”of European Agriculture Revisited: Continuities and Dynamics. Research in Rural Sociology and Development 19: 37–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Beopoulos, N. and Damianakos, S. 1997. Grèce: Le Cache-cache entre la Modernité et la Tradition. In Vers un Rural Postindustriel: Rural et Environnement Dans Huit Pays Européenes, ed. M. Jollivet, 176–231. L’Harmattan: Paris.Google Scholar
  5. Birch, K., L. Levidow, and T. Papaioannou.2010. Sustainable Capital? The Neoliberalization of Nature and Knowledge in the European “Knowledge-based Bio-economy”. Sustainability 2(9): 2898–2918.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Blaikie, P.2008. Epilogue: Towards a Future for Political Ecology that Works. Geoforum 39(2): 765–772.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Blay-Palmer, A.2009. The Canadian Pioneer: The Genesis of Urban Food Policy in Toronto. International Planning Studies 14(4): 401–416.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Born, B., and M. Purcell.2006. Avoiding the Local Trap: Scale and Food Systems in Planning Research. Journal of Planning Education and Research 26(2): 195–207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bryant, R., and S. Bailey.1997. Third World Political Ecology. London and New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  10. Buller, H.2001. Is This the European Model? In Agricultural Transformation, Food and Environment: Perspectives on European Rural Policy and Planning-Volume 1, eds. H. Buller and K. Hoggart, 1–8. Aldershot: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  11. Carey, J.2013. Urban and Community Food Strategies: The Case of Bristol. International Planning Studies 18(1): 111–128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cockburn, A., and J. Ridgeway.1979. Political Ecology. New York: Times Books.Google Scholar
  13. Cornwell, J.2012. Worker Co-operatives and Spaces of Possibility: An Investigation of Subject Space at Collective Copies. Antipode 44(3): 725–744.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Damianakos, S.1997. The Ongoing Quest for a Model of Greek Agriculture. Sociologia Ruralis 37(2): 190–208.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Deas, I.2012. Towards Post-political Consensus in Urban Policy? Localism and the Emerging Agenda for Regeneration Under the Cameron Government. Planning Practice and Research 28(1): 65–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. DuPuis, E.M., and D. Goodman.2005. Should we go “Home” to Eat?: Toward a Reflexive Politics of Localism. Journal of Rural Studies 21(3): 359–371.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Emaus Fundación Social. 2011. Políticas Públicas para la Soberanía Alimentaria. San Sebastián. Available at:
  18. Emel, J., and H. Neo, eds.2015. Political Ecologies of Meat. London and New York: Earthscan from Routledge.Google Scholar
  19. Evans, N., C. Morris, and M. Winter.2002. Conceptualizing Agriculture: A Critique of Post-productivism as the New Orthodoxy. Progress in Human Geography 26(3): 313–332.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Fabiani, G., and G. Scarano.1995. Una Stratificazione Socioeconomica delle Aziende Agricole: Pluralismo Funzionale e Sviluppo Territoriale. La Questione Agraria 59.Google Scholar
  21. FAO.2009. How to Feed the World in 2050. FAO: Rome.Google Scholar
  22. ———. 2013. SAVE FOOD: Global Initiative on Food Losses and Waste Reduction. FAO: Rome. Available at:
  23. Forsyth, T.2003. Critical Political Ecology: The Politics of Environmental Science. London and New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  24. Freibauer, A., E. Mathijs, L. O’Brien, and S. Treyer.2011. Sustainable Food Consumption and Production in a Resource-Constrained World. European Commission: Brussels.Google Scholar
  25. Friedmann, H., and P. McMichael.1989. Agriculture and the State System. Sociologia Ruralis 29(2): 93–117.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Galdeano-Gómez, E., J.A. Aznar-Sánchez, and J.C. Pérez-Mesa.2011. The Complexity of Theories on Rural Development in Europe: An Analysis of the Paradigmatic Case of Almería (South-East Spain). Sociologia Ruralis 51(1): 54–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Galt, R.2008. Toward an Integrated Understanding of Pesticide use Intensity in Costa Rican Vegetable Farming. Human Ecology 36(5): 655–677.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. ——— 2009. “It Just Goes to Kill Ticos”: National Market Regulation and the Political Ecology of Farmers’ Pesticide Use in Costa Rica. Available at:
  29. Gibbs, D.2000. Ecological Modernisation, Regional Economic Development and Regional Development Agencies. Geoforum 31(1): 9–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Gibson-Graham, J.K.2006. A Postcapitalist Politics. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  31. Goodman, D.2004. Rural Europe Redux? Reflections on Alternative Agro-food Networks and Paradigm Change. Sociologia Ruralis 44(1): 3–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Goodman, D., M.E. Dupuis, E.M. DuPuis, and M.K. Goodman.2012. Alternative Food Networks: Knowledge, Practice, and Politics. London and New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  33. Guthman, J.2004. Agrarian Dreams: The Paradox of Organic Farming in California. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  34. ———2008. Neoliberalism and the Making of Food Politics in California. Geoforum 39(3): 1171–1183.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Hajer, M.A.1996. The Politics of Environmental Discourse: Ecological Modernization and the Policy Process. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  36. Harper, A., A. Shattuck, E. Holt-Giménez, A. Alkon, and F. Lambrick.2009. Food Policy Councils: Lessons Learned. Oakland: Institute for Food and Development Policy.Google Scholar
  37. Hoggart, K., and A. Paniagua.2001a. What Rural Restructuring? Journal of Rural Studies 17(1): 41–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. ———.2001b. The Restructuring of Rural Spain? Journal of Rural Studies 17(1): 63–80.Google Scholar
  39. Horlings, L.G., L.C. Kitchen, T.K. Marsden, and G.I. Bristow.2010. Exploring the Potential Contributions of the Bio-economy and the Eco-economy to Agri-Food and Rural Regional Development. The Centre For Business Relationships Sustainability and Society (BRASS): Cardiff.Google Scholar
  40. Horlings, L.G., and T.K. Marsden.2011. Towards the Real Green Revolution? Exploring the Conceptual Dimensions of a New Ecological Modernisation of Agriculture that could “Feed the World”. Global Environmental Change 21(2): 441–452.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Huber, J.2000. Towards Industrial Ecology: Sustainable Development as a Concept of Ecological Modernization. Journal of Environmental Policy and Planning 2(4): 269–285.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Ilbery, B., and I. Bowler.1998. From Agricultural Productivism to Post-productivism. In The Geography of Rural Change, ed. B. Ilbery, 57–84. Harlow: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  43. Kenkel, D.S., and W. Manning.1999. Economic Evaluation of Nutrition Policy: Or, There’s no Such Thing as a Free Lunch. Food Policy 24(2): 145–162.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Kinsella, J., Wilson, S., Jong, F. de and Renting, H. 2000. Pluriactivity as a Livelihood Strategy in Irish Farm Households and its Role in Rural Development. Sociologia Ruralis, 40(4), 481–496.Google Scholar
  45. Kitchen, L., and T. Marsden.2009. Creating Sustainable Rural Development through Stimulating the Eco-economy: Beyond the Eco-economic Paradox? Sociologia Ruralis 49(3): 273–294.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. ———.2011. Constructing Sustainable Communities: A Theoretical Exploration of the Bio-economy and Eco-economy Paradigms. Local Environment 16(8): 753–769.Google Scholar
  47. Kizos, T., and T. Iosifides.2007. The Contradictions of Agrotourism Development in Greece: Evidence from Three Case Studies. South European Society and Politics 12(1): 59–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Laurent, C.2013. The Ambiguities of French MediterraneanAgriculture: Images ofthe Multifunctional Agriculture to Mask Social Dumping? In Agriculture in Mediterranean Europe: Between Old and New Paradigms, eds. D. Ortiz-Miranda, A.M. Moragues-Faus, and E. Arnalte-Alegre, 149–172. Emerald: Bingley.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Lang, T.1999. The Complexities of Globalization: The UK as a Case Study of Tensions within the Food System and the Challenge to Food Policy. Agriculture and Human Values 16(2): 169–185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Lawhon, M., and J.T. Murphy.2012. Socio-technical Regimes and Sustainability Transitions: Insights from Political Ecology. Progress in Human Geography 36(3): 354–378.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Lewis, J.2005. New Labour’s Approach to the Voluntary Sector: Independence and the Meaning of Partnership. Social Policy and Society 4(2): 121–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Lowe, P., T. Marsden, and S. Whatmore.1990. Rural Restructuring: Global Processes and their Responses. London: David Fulton.Google Scholar
  53. Lowe, P., J. Murdoch, T. Marsden, R. Munton, and A. Flynn.1993. Regulating the New Rural Spaces: The Uneven Development of Land. Journal of Rural Studies 9(3): 205–222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Marsden, T.2003. The Condition of Rural Sustainability. Van Gorcum: Assen.Google Scholar
  55. ———2004. The Quest for Ecological Modernisation: Re-spacing Rural Development and Agri-Food Studies. Sociologia Ruralis 44(2): 129–146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. ———2012. Towards a Real Sustainable Agri-food Security and Food Policy: Beyond the Ecological Fallacies? The Political Quarterly 83(1): 139–145.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Marsden, T., and R. Sonnino.2008. Rural Development and the Regional State: Denying Multifunctional Agriculture in the UK. Journal of Rural Studies 24(4): 422–431.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Marsden, T., J. Murdoch, P. Lowe, R. Munton, and A. Flynn.1993. Constructing the Countryside. London: UCL Press.Google Scholar
  59. Marsden, T., J. Banks, H. Renting, and J.D. Van der Ploeg.2001. The Road Towards Sustainable Rural Development: Issues of Theory, Policy and Research Practice. Journal of Environmental Policy and Planning 3(2): 75–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Maxwell, D.1999. The Political Economy of Urban Food Security in Sub-Saharan Africa. World Development 27(11): 1939–1953.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Moragues-Faus, A.2014. How is Agriculture Reproduced? Unfolding Farmers’ Interdependencies in Small-Scale Mediterranean Olive Oil Production. Journal of Rural Studies 34: 139–151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. ——— 2015. Cambiar la Politica Alimentaria Empezando desde Abajo. Revista Soberania Alimentaria, Biodiversidad y Culturas, 19. Available at:
  63. Moragues-Faus, A., and K. Morgan.2015. Re-framing the Foodscape: The Emergent World of Urban Food Policy. Environment and Planning A 47: 1558–1573.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Moragues-Faus, A., and R. Sonnino.2012. Embedding Quality in the Agro-food System: The Dynamics and Implications of Place-Making Strategies in the Olive Oil Sector of Alto Palancia, Spain. Sociologia Ruralis 52(2): 215–234.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Moragues-Faus, A., D. Ortiz-Miranda, and T. Marsden.2013. Bringing Mediterranean Agriculture into the Theoretical Debates. In Agriculture in Mediterranean Europe: Between Old and New Paradigms, eds. D. Ortiz-Miranda and A. Moragues-Faus, 9–35. Emerald: Bingley.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Moragues, A., K. Morgan, H. Moschitz, I. Neimane, H. Nilsson, M. Pinto, H. Rohracher, R. Ruiz, M. Thuswald, T. Tisenkopfs, and J. Halliday. 2013. Urban Food Strategies: The Rough Guide to Sustainable Food Systems. Document Developed in the Framework of the FP7 Project FOODLINKS (GA No. 265287). Available at:
  67. Morgan, K., and R. Sonnino.2010. The Urban Foodscape: World Cities and the New Food Equation. Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society 3(2): 209–224.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Newby, H.1982. Rural Sociology and its Relevance to the Agricultural Economist: A Review. Journal of Agricultural Economics 33(2): 125–165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Ortiz-Miranda, D., and A.M. Moragues-Faus.2014. Governing Fair Trade Coffee Supply: Dynamics and Challenges in Small Farmers Organizations. Sustainable Development 23(1): 41–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Ortiz-Miranda, D., A. Moragues-Faus, and E. Arnalte-Alegre.2013. Agriculture in Mediterranean Europe: Challenging Theory and Policy. In Agriculture in Mediterranean Europe: Between Old and New Paradigms, eds. D. Ortiz-Miranda and A. Moragues-Faus, 295–310. Emerald: Bingley.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Paniagua, A.2001. Agri-Environmental Policy in Spain: The Agenda of Socio-Political Developments at the National, Regional and Local Levels. Journal of Rural Studies 17(1): 81–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Patterson, L.A.1997. Agricultural Policy Reform in the European Community: A Three-Level Game Analysis. International Organization 51(1): 135–165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Pothukuchi, K., and J.L. Kaufman.1999. Placing the Food System on the Urban Agenda: The Role of Municipal Institutions in Food Systems Planning. Agriculture and Human Values 16(2): 213–224.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Potter, C., and M. Tilzey.2005. Agricultural Policy Discourses in the European Post-Fordist Transition: Neoliberalism, Neomercantilism and Multifunctionality. Progress in Human Geography 29(5): 581–600.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Pretty, J., et al.2010. The Top 100 Questions of Importance to the Future of Global Agriculture. International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability 8(4): 219–236.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Reynolds, B.2009. Feeding a World City: The London Food Strategy. International Planning Studies 14(4): 417–424.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Robbins, P.2012. Political Ecology: A Critical Introduction. Chichester: John Wiley and Sons.Google Scholar
  78. Sayer, A.2001. For a Critical Cultural Political Economy. Antipode 33(4): 687–708.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Schiff, R.2008. The Role of Food Policy Councils in Developing Sustainable Food Systems. Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition 3(2–3): 206–228.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Sonnino, R.2010. Escaping the Local Trap: Insights on Re-localization from School Food Reform. Journal of Environmental Policy and Planning 12(1): 23–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Sonnino, R., and T. Marsden.2006. Beyond the Divide: Rethinking Relationships Between Alternative and Conventional Food Networks in Europe. Journal of Economic Geography 6(2): 181–199.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Sonnino, R., A. Moragues-Faus, and A. Maggio.2014. Sustainable Food Security: An Emerging Research and Policy Agenda. International Journal of Sociology of Agriculture and Food 21(1): 173–188.Google Scholar
  83. Tovey, H.2001. Agricultural Development and Environmental Regulation in Ireland. In Agricultural Transformation, Food and Environment: Perspectives on European Rural Policy and Planning-Volume 1, eds. H. Buller and K. Hoggart, 109–130. Aldershot: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  84. Trabalzi, F.2007. Crossing Conventions in Localized Food Networks: Insights from Southern Italy. Environment and Planning A 39(2): 283–300.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Tregear, A.2011. Progressing Knowledge in Alternative and Local Food Networks: Critical Reflections and a Research Agenda. Journal of Rural Studies 27(4): 419–430.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Tscharntke, T., Y. Clough, T.C. Wanger, L. Jackson, I. Motzkea, I. Perfecto, J. Vandermeer, and A. Whitbread.2012. Global Food Security, Biodiversity Conservation and the Future of Agricultural Intensification. Biological Conservation 151(1): 53–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. UNFPA.2008. State of the World Population 2007 Report. New York: United Nations Population Found.Google Scholar
  88. Van der Ploeg, J.D., and H. Renting.2000. Impact and Potential: A Comparative Review of European Rural Development Practices. Sociologia Ruralis 40(4): 529–543.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. Van der Ploeg, J.D., and D. Roep.2003. Multifunctionality and Rural Development: The Actual Situation in Europe. In Multifunctional Agriculture: A New Paradigm for European Agriculture and Rural Development, eds. G. Durand and G. van Huylenbroeck, 37–53. Aldershot: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  90. Van der Ploeg, J.D., H. Renting, G. Brunori, K. Knickel, J. Mannion, T. Marsden, K. De Roest, E. Sevilla-Guzmán, and F. Ventura.2000. Rural Development: From Practices and Policies towards Theory. Sociologia Ruralis 40(4): 391–408.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  91. Ventura, F., and P. Milone.2000. Theory and Practice of Multi-product Farms: Farm Butcheries in Umbria. Sociologia Ruralis 40(4): 452–465.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  92. Vermeulen, S.J., B.M. Campbell, and J.S.I. Ingram.2012. Climate Change and Food Systems. Annual Review of Environment and Resources 37(1): 195–222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  93. Viljoen, A., and J.S.C. Wiskerke. 2012. Sustainable Food Planning: Evolving Theory and Practice. Wageningen: Wageningen Academic Publishers.Google Scholar
  94. Walford, N. 2003. Productivism is Allegedly Dead, Long Live Productivism: Evidence of Continued Productivist Attitudes and Decision-Making in South-East England. Journal of Rural Studies 19(4): 491–502.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  95. Walker, P.A.2006. Political Ecology: Where is the Policy? Progress in Human Geography 30(3): 382–395.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  96. Ward, N.1993. The Agricultural Treadmill and the Rural Environment in the Post-productivist Era. Sociologia Ruralis 33(3–4): 348–364.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  97. Wilson, G.A.2001. From Productivism to Post-productivism … and Back Again? Exploring the (Un)Changed Natural and Mental Landscapes of European Agriculture. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 26(1): 77–102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  98. ———2007. Multifunctional Agriculture: A Transition Theory Perspective. Wallingford: CABI Publishing.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  99. ———2008. From “Weak” to “Strong” Multifunctionality: Conceptualising Farm-Level Multifunctional Transitional Pathways. Journal of Rural Studies 24(3): 367–383.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ana Moragues-Faus
    • 1
  1. 1.Cardiff UniversityCardiffUK

Personalised recommendations