Society for Urban, National and Transnational/Global Anthropology
Invited - Oral Presentation Session
This paper investigates the limitations of social movement mobilization within neoliberal capitalism and the implications of such limitations for the politics of scale in contemporary capitalist formations. The paper employs as a case study the rise, persistence, and demise of the Community Food Security Coalition (CFSC), a national-scale coalition in the U.S. which consisted of more than 300 member organizations working at the local-scale for the goal of “community food security,” defined as “a condition in which all community residents obtain a safe, culturally acceptable, nutritionally adequate diet through a sustainable food system that maximizes community self-reliance and social justice.” The CFSC was founded
in 1994 but folded in 2012. During the 18 years of its existence, it actively lobbied the U.S. Congress to secure funding for USDA Community Food Programs, served as gatekeeper for local “community organizations” applying for such funding, held annual meetings of local food security activists, and supported the activism of its member organizations with its technical and political resources.
Theorizing the politics of scale, the paper asks: What were the aspects of scalar mobilization within local and national class and racial politics during the neoliberal period in the US from the 1990s-2010s that allowed the CFSC to “scale up” to the national scale, but by 2012 had undermined it? What do the politics of scale tell us about the pressing question: how can a national-scale class-based organization generate the solidarities that allow a successful inclusion of local organizations committed to place-specific identities and issues?