Food and Form-of-Life

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  • Title: Food and Form-of-Life: A Philosophical Argument for Urban and Peri-Urban Agriculture
  • Author(s): Jody Beck
  • Publisher: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Collection: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Series: Common Ground Open
  • Journal Title: Food Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal
  • Keywords: Urban Agriculture, Alternative Agriculture, Philosophy of Food, Giorgio Agamben, Form-of-Life, Peri-Urban Agriculture, Politics of Food
  • Volume: 7
  • Issue: 1
  • Year: 2017
  • ISSN: 2160-1933 (Print)
  • ISSN: 2160-1941 (Online)
  • DOI:
  • Citation: Beck, Jody. 2017. "Food and Form-of-Life: A Philosophical Argument for Urban and Peri-Urban Agriculture." Food Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal 7 (1): 1-13. doi:10.18848/2160-1933/CGP/v07i01/1-13.
  • Extent: 13 pages


The two visions of food and agriculture that are currently dominant rely on opposing categories of justifications. Proponents of conventional agriculture rely on a simple justification of means by ends, specifically increasing total food production. On the other hand, proponents of traditional or alternative forms of agriculture appeal to many and varied motivations. Collectively, they rely on a justification of the ends by the means—the significant categories of supporting logic for this vision being how food is produced, by whom, and where. Giorgio Agamben, in his book “Means without Ends,” provides a way to not only collect the arguments for alternative and traditional food production methodologies, but to do so in a manner that highlights the competing political and philosophical foundations of these two visions. He connects the justification by ends with naked life and the justification by means with form-of-life. Form-of-life is a life for which what is at stake in living is the pattern of life itself. Naked life, on the other hand, is pure biological existence and does not include any definition by quality of life. The political and philosophical implications of this connection between forms-of-life, categories of justification, and an analysis of the currently opposing visions of food and agriculture lead to an argument for a concentration on urban and peri-urban agriculture which claims, in short, that in order to expand the potential for more authentic political lives, we need to have the capacity to live lives embedded in the landscapes of food production.