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The Commodification of Food, Farming and Farmers: A Critical Review of Farm Laws, 2020


The recently enacted Farm Laws in India has led to widespread and vigorous protests across the country. It has been hailed as a watershed moment by the neoliberal market analysts and is compared to the 1991 economic reforms, based on the notions of liberalisation, privatisation, and globalisation. A critical review of these laws and amendments needs to be situated in the larger narrative of commodification, wherein certain essential goods and services are appropriated and standardised and traded at market-determined prices. The present review intends to place these new laws in the broader policies and ‘projects’ of neoliberalisation of nature. A critical look at these laws shows that they have profound implications for social justice and environmental sustainability. It seeks to cross-question the food question and the peasant question by revisiting the ontological questions of what constitutes food and farming. It considers the new debate and the old vision of ‘food as commons’, and find that the new laws are, in fact, a continuation of attempts by neoliberal markets and states to commodify food and farming activities. Nevertheless, such attempts, for various reasons, face active resistance in the form of countermovements by the peasantry and enter the arena of political economy. The review argues that the present peasant resistance should be considered as part of the larger environmental justice movements.


Commodification, Commons, Farm Laws, Critical Review, India


Author Biography

Vinay Sankar

I am a full-time Ph.D. scholar at BITS-Pilani Hyderabad Campus, India. Before that, I was a practitioner of commons at the grassroots, associated with the Foundation for Ecological Security (FES), Anand, Gujarat, India.


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