Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2463

Article | Open Access

How Shall We Judge Agri-Food Governance? Legitimacy Constructions in Food Democracy and Co-Regulation Discourses

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Abstract:  The food democracy discourse has emerged as a normatively grounded critique of an increasingly transnational agri-food system and its dominant co-regulatory mode of governance, where private and public norms and standards interact with public policy and regulation in complex ways. Analyzing competing agri-food discourses through a legitimacy lens can contribute to understanding how authority is transferred from traditional, hierarchical and state-centered constellations to a range of novel agri-food governance arrangements. This article reconstructs and compares the legitimacy constructions articulated in the co-regulation and the food democracy discourses, generating three key findings: first, there are two distinct articulations of food democracy discourse, which we label liberal and strong food democracy; second, while conceptualizations of legitimacy in the liberal food democracy and the co-regulatory discourse share many commonalities, legitimacy in the co-regulatory discourse relies more heavily on output, while the liberal food democracy discourse is more sensitive to issues of input and throughput legitimacy; third, the strong food democracy discourse articulates a critical counter-model that emphasizes inclusive deliberation which in turn is expected to generate a shared orientation towards the common good and countervailing power.

Keywords:  agri-food governance; co-regulation; discourse; food democracy; governance; legitimacy; participation



© Julia Behringer, Peter H. Feindt. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.