Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2021

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (BA)


Environmental Studies


John Van Buren


An individualistic ideology strongly defines the American value system, shaping the economic and political landscape of the country. It encourages a competitive, free-market economy with little government restriction, prioritizing short term economic growth over environmental and social sustainability. This paper addresses how American individualism fuels the commodification of food and corporately controlled agriculture. The egocentric ideology opens the door for unfettered corporate control of farming, meant to maximize profit and control resources, despite its effects on food insecurity and small farms. Consolidated agriculture, corporate contracts, and farm subsidies are meant to expand the pockets of corporations, though leaving low income communities with little access to healthy food. The modern food system is incompatible with a more collective ideology necessary to treat food as a commons, for sustainable access to all. Chapter 1 utilizes quantitative sources such as USDA reports to outline the evolution of American agriculture alongside increasing industrialization, while highlighting the prevalence of food insecurity. Chapter 2 delves into some history of American individualism, and how the ideology supports privatization and social inequalities. Chapter 3 specifically unfolds the economic incentives for agribusiness monopolies and privatized food. Chapter 4 employs the ethics of food and environmental justice to emphasize the importance of creating food as a commons. Finally, chapter 5 argues that a collectivist ideology would be more compatible with sustainable forms of cooperative farming to better distribute wealth and resources.