Susanne Wengle

junior fellow
EURIAS cohort 2018/2019
discipline Comparative Studies
Assistant Professor in Political Science, University of Notre Dame

Research project

Setting the Table; How Agrifood Systems Evolved in Russia and the US

 

Setting the Table examines and compares the co-evolution of industrial food systems in the US and post-Soviet Russia, two countries that have embraced the goal of turning farms into factories for much of the 20th century. A few facts about US food systems are well known: we generally think of the US economy as the paragon of a liberal market that supply consumers with myriads of affordable choices, though we also know that farm subsidies cheapen corn and soy, and that sugar, salt and fat are over-supplied. Our impression of Soviet and post-Soviet economies, conversely, tends to be informed by the harsh realities that these economic systems produce: shortages and scarcity in the Soviet era, rural poverty and rising inequality in post-Soviet times. While these are all important characterizations, there was also sweetness, abundance and care in Soviet and post-Soviet economies, and each of these were fundamental, not accidental, features of these economies. Against the background of pervasive shortages, ice-cream, for example, was readily available, delicious and cheap, because it was a political priority for Soviet leaders, who saw this as a way to fulfill the promise of socialism. Conversely, there are scarcities and disparities in the US system requiring attention, not as market failures, but as key characteristics of how advanced capitalist markets function. Against the background of abundant calories, brimming plates and stores, actually nutritious and affordable staples are hard to come by in many low-income neighborhoods.

 

What was abundant and what was bitterly scarce, what form delicious sweetness takes, and whose care makes it available to whom, are key questions that my comparative research project addresses. The core aim of Setting the Table is a re-assessment of successes and failures in industrial agrifood system, and an examination of how society responded to these failures with alternatives. The seemingly every-day qualities of food and the agricultural sector’s declining important as a source of income and employment have meant they have not received much attention in political economy debates. This is a lost opportunity, because who eats what, and how our tables are set are important questions as every citizen and economic actors is also an human being, reliant on food. The map of our food systems that this project reveals provides an original, unfamiliar and surprising lens to understand the distribution of privilege in contemporary markets. In other words, the pay-off from my comparative account is a novel understanding of the unequal distribution of wealth and scarcity in these two large and globally significant economies. The distribution of valuable/fertile soil versus heavily polluted strips of land, of nutritious meals versus low-quality/cheap food stand in for broader picture of distribution of privilege and pain.

 

Biography

 

Susanne Wengle is Assistant Professor in Comparative Politics in the Department of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame. She holds a PhD in Political Science from the University of California Berkeley. She is also Concurrent Faculty at the Notre Dame Keough School for Global Affairs, & Faculty Fellow at the Notre Dame Kellogg Institute for International Affairs, and at the Notre Dame Nanovic Institute for European Studies.

 

Susanne Wengle main research interests concern the politics of markets regulations; her past research examines how particular regulations function and how they evolve, hence what “politics” make them possible, but also how their effects change the political conditions in which they were formulated.

Selected publications

 

'Symbolic State-building in Contemporary Russia', with C. Evans, Post-Soviet Affairs, vol. 34, no. 6, 2018, pp. 384-411.

 

'Understanding the new land rush; how capital inflows transformed Russia’s rural economy', Governance, vol. 31, no. 2, 2018, pp. 259-277.

 

'When experimentalist governance meets science-based regulations; the case of food safety regulations', Regulation & Governance, vol. 10, no. 3, 2016, pp. 262-283.

 

Post-Soviet Power: State-led Development and Russia’s Marketization, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2015.

 

'Engineers versus Managers; Experts, Market-making and State-building in Putin’s Russia', Economy and Society, vol. 41, no. 3, 2012, pp. 435-467.

 

 

institut

senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2017/2018
Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study (SCAS)
discipline History
2017
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2018/2019
Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study (SCAS)
discipline Philosophy and Islamic Studies
2018
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2012/2013
Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study (SCAS)
discipline Linguistics
2012
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2015/2016
Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study (SCAS)
discipline Cultural Studies
2015