Document Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Jason W. Moore


The family farm has been the foundation of America’s cheap food model. This research examines how cheap food from the Corn Belt was produced from 1840s to the late twentieth century. It investigates how the interrelationships between family farming, proletarianization-housewifization, and national and world markets configured and reconfigured. Utilizing a world-ecological framework, I argue that Illinois and Iowa, the heart of the Corn Belt, were the epicenter of two successive agricultural revolutions that fundamentally transformed world accumulation and world nature. The analysis is centered on the development of successive agricultural revolutions over the longue durée of capitalism, with the greatest attention on the nineteenth and twentieth century revolutions in the United States. At the core of the dissertation I examine what I call the ‘double dialectic’: the contradictory relationship within the agrarian household and in relation to world markets and world power. The findings of the study are historical and methodological. Historically, the Corn Belt family farm possessed a unique position within the capitalist world-economy, resulting in relative prosperity and long-term stability. Contrary to regional studies of the Corn Belt, the study provides a world-ecological framework for reconstructing the origins, development, and crisis of the Corn Belt family farm and interpreting how the production of nature, the pursuit of power, and capital accumulation constitute its development.

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Sociology Commons