UNMAKING: a research programme on the disruption of capitalism in societal transformation to sustainability

From the urban to the rural: agricultural grassroots initiatives and the making of postcapitalist futures 

From the urban to the rural: agricultural grassroots initiatives and the making of postcapitalist futures 

PhD student: Julia Spanier.

Supervisors: Giuseppe Feola, Ellen Moors, Marion Ernwein

Modern growth-based capitalism cannot be untied from the interlinked processes of urbanisation and agricultural industrialisation. Capitalism and its paradigm of endless economic growth drove the commodification of the countryside and the industrialisation of agricultural production, dispossessing peasants and pushing large shares of the rural population into growing cities. This, by now, planetary capitalist urbanisation of society has severe impacts on our entangled human-more-than-human world. It has been described as the origin and ongoing driver of two interconnected cultural rifts that conceal the material linkages between humans and nature, and between the urban and the rural respectively.  

This has two important consequences for the UNMAKING programme’s aim to study the unmaking of unsustainable capitalist ways of being and doing—an aim strongly aligned with the academic project of furthering a degrowth transformation. First, the capitalist production of the city and the countryside forms a relevant spatial context in which any initiative aiming at the disruption of capitalist institutions, or the prefiguration of a degrowth society, necessarily is embedded. Second, next to the frequently demanded unmaking of the rift between humans and nature, the transformation towards post-capitalist and degrowth futures also requires the unmaking of the rift between the rural and the urban. To take these two consequences into account, this PhD project adds the lens of rural and urban space and their relations to the UNMAKING programme. It explores this lens by focusing on the case of the German agri-food system, and its disruption by Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) initiatives and their movement—a movement with a decidedly hybrid rural-urban identity. 

The PhD project thereby asks the following questions: 

  1. In how far does the CSA movement relate to degrowth in Germany? 
  2. How do CSA initiatives disrupt and reconfigure differently shaped capitalist countrysides in Germany? 
  3. How are urban-rural relations transformed within CSA initiatives? 
  4. How is the CSA movement facing common demons of rural social movements while struggling for a transformation of the food system? 


Publications within the PhD project:  

Spanier, J., Feola, G2022Nurturing the post-growth city: bringing the rural back inIn: Savini, F., Ferreria, A., von Schönfeld, K. C. (Eds.)  Post-Growth Planning: cities beyond the market economy. Routledge, 159-172. 

Spanier, J., Guerrero Lara, L., Feola, G., (in press). A one-sided love affair? On the potential for a coalition between degrowth and community-supported agriculture in Germany. Agriculture and Human Values, DOI: 10.1007/s10460-023-10462-2


Further Publications: 

Guerrero Lara, L., van Oers, L., Smessaert, J., Spanier, J., Raj, G., Feola, G., (in press). Degrowth and Agri-Food Systems: A Research Agenda for the Critical Social SciencesSustainability Science, DOI: 10.1007/s11625-022-01276-y

Feola, G., Guerrero Lara, L., Smessaert, J. Spanier, J. 2020. Book Review: The Case for DegrowthEnvironmental Innovation and Societal Transitions, 37: 381-382.