Supermarket USA Food and Power in the Cold War Farms Race Shane Hamilton

Publication date:
13 Nov 2018
Yale University Press
288 pages: 210 x 140 x 24mm
12 b-w illus.
Sales territories:

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America fought the Cold War in part through supermarkets—and the food economy pioneered then has helped shape the way we eat today

Supermarkets were invented in the United States, and from the 1940s on they made their way around the world, often explicitly to carry American‑style economic culture with them. This innovative history tells us how supermarkets were used as anticommunist weapons during the Cold War, and how that has shaped our current food system.
The widespread appeal of supermarkets as weapons of free enterprise contributed to a “farms race” between the United States and the Soviet Union, as the superpowers vied to show that their contrasting approaches to food production and distribution were best suited to an abundant future. In the aftermath of the Cold War, U.S. food power was transformed into a global system of market power, laying the groundwork for the emergence of our contemporary world, in which transnational supermarkets operate as powerful institutions in a global food economy.

Shane Hamilton is a senior lecturer in International Business and Strategy at the University of York, and the author of Trucking Country: The Road to America’s Wal‑Mart Economy

 “Shane Hamilton's Supermarket USA is an important contribution to this discussion because he shifts the framework to economic competition, focuses on the ordinary and necessary goal of procuring food, and neatly illustrates how the power of the Cold War lay not in the event itself but in the systems it left behind”—Michelle Mart, H-Soz-Kult

“Hamilton has written a richly detailed and compelling history of an often- overlooked component of Cold War food policy”—Kristin L. Ahlberg, The Journal of American History

“The Cold War wasn’t just fought with military hardware in proxy wars, but with boxes of cereal and cans of tuna in supermarket aisles. Hamilton’s is an engaging contribution to Cold War history, showing how the technopolitics of consumption, production, and distribution mattered in the last century, and continue to shape the world long after the fall of the Soviety Union.”—Raj Patel, author of Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System

“Written with verve and based on a wide array of archival and fugitive sources, Supermarket USA is an extraordinarily important work that bridges the chasm that has long divided studies of Cold War rivalry from the emerging history of capitalist globalization during that era and after.”—Nelson Lichtenstein, author of The Retail Revolution: How Wal-Mart Created a Brave New World of Business

“Who knew that supermarkets, of all things, were key elements of U.S. free enterprise, anti-Soviet, Cold War propaganda? Hamilton fully explains how ‘farm wars’ led directly to today’s international industrial agribusinesses. This superb book is a must-read.”—Marion Nestle, author of Unsavory Truth: How Food Companies Skew the Science of What We Eat