cover image Supermarket USA: Food and Power in the Cold War Farms Race

Supermarket USA: Food and Power in the Cold War Farms Race

Shane Hamilton. Yale Univ, $38 (288p) ISBN 978-0-300-23269-1

University of York professor Hamilton presents a shrewd sociological and historical study of the supermarket as a propaganda tool and symbol of American free enterprise during the Cold War. He outlines the different approaches to farming taken by the U.S. and the Soviet Union: the former “funneled taxpayer funds” into agricultural research, resulting in increased use of pesticides, antibiotics, farming machinery, and selective breeding, and the latter placed emphasis on collective farming. He traces the U.S. history of food as foreign aid, often used to combat communism, from Truman’s Point Four program to Eisenhower’s “Food for Peace,” which became a cover for agricultural surplus dumping. Meanwhile, Kruschev’s collective approach failed, and he was removed from power in 1963 after widespread rises in food prices. In the final chapters, Hamilton examines how supermarkets shaped the U.S. agricultural industry, frequently forcing small farms out of business in favor of corporate conglomerates, and how American global food relief shifted in the 1960s and ’70s from a humanitarian undertaking to one driven by profits. This is an academic text, but could also appeal to those interested in the history of the relationship between Russia and the United States. (Sept.)