International conflict over agricultural regulation continues after more than six years to threaten to destroy the whole Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (gatt), and with it an agreement that greatly extends corporate power relative to national (and public) power. Paradoxically, the deadlock has been caused by a type of national regulation of agriculture whose days are numbered. Even more paradoxically, Europe, cast as defender of the old ways, has committed itself to more basic domestic reform than the United States. Major changes have been initiated in the European Common Agricultural Policy which go further than anyone imagined possible at the outset of the Uruguay Round.footnote1 The choice is not between ‘regulation’ or ‘free trade’, therefore, but between new forms of implicit or explicit regulation.footnote＊
In and around the tangled web of national politics, European and North American integration, and international economic competition, new
In the long view, it is clear that the agricultural trade conflicts inside and outside the gatt are the culmination of longterm structural and inter-state changes. The rules implicitly governing agrofood relations were established in the years immediately after World War II and worked stably enough for nearly twenty five years to justify calling them a ‘food regime’. However, new relations were forged during that time, which by the early 1970s began to undermine the postwar system of food regulation.
In this article I analyse the rise of a food regime and the emergence of contradictory and conflictual relations within it. First, I define the food regime and its main features. In the second section, I describe the character of the food regime, including its internal tensions, between 1947 and 1973. In the third section I describe the emergence of new relations and new rules after the food crisis of 1972–73. To simplify the story of the regime and its crisis, in these sections I treat states, particularly the us, as integral actors.footnote2 In the final part of this essay, I explore the residual and emergent relations which make possible either a new regime, or the descent into deeper disorder.
The impasse in international economic relations is centred on agriculture because in the agro-food sector there exists the largest gap between national regulation and transnational economic organization. This gap is the legacy of the post-World War II food regime, the rule-governed structure of production and consumption of food on a