Monday, March 12, 2018

Mather et al. 2006. "Post-productivism and rural land use: cul de sac or challenge for theorization?"

Is post-productivism a thing? That's what Mather et al (2006) seek to find out. They begin with a very helpful lit review on the subject:

"Recent years have seen a vigorous but limited debate on the concept of rural post-productivism. Initial reference to the concept in the early 1990s (e.g. Shucksmith, 1993: Ward, 1993) was soon followed by an apparent acceptance, implied by reference to a post-productivist countryside (e.g. Halfacree, 1997, 1999; Marsden, 1998a; Wilson and Wilson, 1997). Scepticism, however, quickly set in, with some critics referring to the concept as a ‘myth’ (Morris and Evans, 1999, p. 352) and a ‘false blind alley’ (Evans et al., 2002, p. 328)."

So, there's a disagreement and they are going to weigh in. They are geographers, so they are focused on land use more than social change. Also, they are British. They locate the debate as a mostly British one with Europeans and some Australians writing about it as well (p. 442). Second, most of the literature is about agriculture rather than forestry and other land uses. Third, they don't think the term post-productivist has been defined well enough.

They provide a good definition buried in a footnote: "Recently, however, Bradshaw (2004) has suggested that post-productivism "reflects the postulated reorientation of primary agriculture from meeting the singular goal of producing the greatest quantity of food at the least possible cost to meeting multiple goals such as producing quality food, maintaining rural livelihoods and landscapes and promoting environmental stewardship" (Mather et al p. 442).

However, they say that most works is concerned more with "dimensions" than definitions. By this they mean that most work looks at the traits associated with post-productivist agriculture and tries to quantify how much of these things an area must have to count as post-productivist, and whether the different elements of post-productivism are correlated to one another. An example of these elements are Wilson and Rigg's (2003): "policy change, organic farming, counter-urbanization, the inclusion of environmental NGOs at the core of policy making, consumption in the countryside, and on-farm diversification activities" (Mather et al p. 442).

The counterpoint to declaring agriculture post-productivist is that farmers have not shifted in their thinking or practices (p. 442). Yes, a lot of consumers like to eat organic food now, and governments are trying to write policy to make agriculture more environmentally friendly, but the farmers themselves are not necessarily going along with that.

Mather et al then point out that it's hard to make a case that post-productivism exists or doesn't while we don't have a clear definition for it (p. 443). Therefore, they will attempt to make one up. Actually, they offer two ideas:

"A possible core characteristic is a change in relative emphasis from commodity to non-commodity outputs — from maximising production of material goods in the form of food and wood (used here as a shorthand term for food, industrial crops, various forms of fibre and forest products), to broader objectives, including the provision of ‘environmental services’ used as an umbrella term, encompassing recreation and amenity as well as the ‘ecosystem services’ considered by Costanza et al. (1997))." (p. 443).

Marsden (1995) used the terms ‘productivist’ and ‘post-productivist’ to describe a policy shift "from encouragement of food and farm production to one that also attempts to deliver other environmental and consumer-based benefits" (p. 289). (Mather et al p. 444).

In other words, productivist agriculture is about producing the maximum amount of cheap food, and post-productivism isn't - particularly not when maximizing food production makes low quality food and hurts the environment.

Mather et al look for evidence of post-productivism in the UK. The UK imported much of its food in the lead up to the two World Wars. The wars, and particularly the shortages they caused, led the nation to enact policies to produce a domestic food supply. Once the shortages were far in the past (around the late 1980s and early 1990s), they stopped. (This context makes me think the post-productivist concept is less relevant to the U.S. because we seem plenty busy over here not just trying to feed ourselves but to also "feed the world.")

Admittedly, this is where I lost interest in the article because it's not immediately relevant to the research I am doing, so my synopsis of it stops here.

Sources:
* Bradshaw, B., 2004. Plus c’est la meˆ me chose? Questioning crop diversification as a response to agricultural deregulation in Saskatchewan, Canada. Journal of Rural Studies 20, 35–48.
* Costanza, R., et al., 1997. The value of the world’s ecosystem services and natural capital. Nature 387, 253–260.
* Evans, N., Morris, C., Winter, M., 2002. Conceptualizing agriculture: a critique of post-productivism as the new orthodoxy. Progress in Human Geography 26, 313–332.
* Halfacree, K., 1997. Contrasting roles for the post-productivist country- side. In: Cloke, P., Little, J. (Eds.), Contested Countryside Cultures. Routledge, London, pp. 70–93.
* Halfacree, K., 1999. A new space or spatial effacement? Alternative futures for the post-productivist countryside. In: Walford, N., Everitt, J.C., Napton, D.E. (Eds.), Reshaping the Countryside: Perceptions and Processes of Rural Change. CABI, Wallingford, pp. 67–76.
* Marsden, T., 1995. Beyond agriculture? Regulating the new rural spaces. Journal of Rural Studies 11, 285–297.
* Marsden, T., 1998a. Economic perspectives. In: Ilbery, B. (Ed.), The Geography of Rural Change. Longman, Harlow, pp. 13–30.
* Mather, A.S., G. Hill, and M. Nijnik. 2006. ‘‘Post-productivism and Rural Land Use: Cul de Sac or Challenge for Theorization?’’ Journal of Rural Studies 22(4):441–55.
* Morris, C., Evans, N., 1999. Research on the geography of agricultural change: redundant or revitalized? Area 31, 349–358.
* Shucksmith, M., 1993. Farm household behaviour and the transition to post-productivism. Journal of Agricultural Economics 44, 466–478.
* Ward, N., 1993. The agricultural treadmill and the rural environment in the post-productivist era. Sociologia Ruralis 33, 348–364.
* Wilson, G.A., Rigg, J., 2003. ‘Post-productivist’ agricultural regimes and the South: discordant concepts? Progress in Human Geography 27, 681–707.
* Wilson, O., Wilson, G., 1997. Common cause of common concern? The role of common lands in the post-productivist countryside. Area 29, 45–58.

Ward. 1993. "The Agricultural Treadmill and the Rural Environment in the Post-Productivist Era."

Ward (1993) describes the relationship between productivist and post-productivist agriculture to the agricultural treadmill. He cites counterurbanization as one factor leading to post-productivist agriculture. The shift to post-productivist agriculture was due to both economic and environmental reasons. Counterurbanization is one part of the environmental changes. Ward mostly writes about the UK but this article applies also to the rest of Europe and North America.

The term "agricultural treadmill" can be traced back to agricultural economist William Cochrane, who coined it in 1958. At its inception, it referred to a dynamic that forced farmers to continually adopt new technologies to stay afloat. The first new adopters would gain an advantage in the market by adopting the technology. More farmers would follow, but the gains the early adopters got would be lost. Eventually, the late adopters would be forced to adopt the technology too if they wanted to keep their farms.

This is oversimplifying and perhaps distorting the concept, but imagine a new technology that makes a farm more efficient. The first farms to adopt it might produce better quality products, or lower cost products. They can keep the profits and use them, or they can lower prices and outcompete other farmers. Eventually, once the majority have adopted the new technology, however, the new low price becomes standard. Late adopters must adopt the technology too unless they want to sell their crops at a loss.

The treadmill is harmful for both economic and environmental reasons. Economically, it creates a difficult to impossible situation for farmers. Environmentally, it pushes farmers toward more environmentally harmful practices. However, Ward (and apparently the literature) see the treadmill as a feature of structural conditions and not individual farmer choices:

"The treadmill can best be conceptualized as a set of structural conditions, which have been shaped by international political and economic processes and became embodied in agricultural and food policies across the advanced capitalist world. In turn, these conditions have played an important role in transforming how farmers ‘see the world’ and organize their production, such that the intensification of production through the application of science and technology has become a ‘logic’ of production at the farm level" (Ward 1993:349).

Roughly speaking, Ward sees Fordism and the corresponding productivist agriculture it engendered, facilitated by the "symbiosis" of the state, agro-industrial capital, and agricultural sciences, as creating the structural conditions for the agricultural treadmill. Ward calls these structural conditions "the macro treadmill." To discuss this, we need some definitions.

Fordism "is based on the expansion of domestic markets for mass-produced goods in advanced capitalist states, and requires the progressive adoption of mass consumption by the industrial working class" (Ward 1993:353). This is what happened in the mid-20th century in the U.S.

To make this happen, the U.S. (and Canada and Western Europe) adopted "productivist" agriculture. Citing Goodman and Redclift (1991), Ward explains that there were two main influences in shaping the agricultural system after World War II. First, in the Fordist period, agriculture needed to provide cheap food to an urban industrial workforce which would, in turn, enable higher proportions of household income to be spent on non-food consumption, and so further integrate the industrial working class in the market for mass-produced goods" (Ward 1993:354). This it did. You can see the stats for what percent of disposable income each nation spends on food. The U.S. is the lowest. Last I checked it was nine percent. It was much higher pre-World War II.

Second, accumulation occurred within food and agriculture itself (Ward 1993:354). Farmers don't just hand weed, plow with an ox team, and save seeds anymore. They buy machines and inputs from corporations. And the food they grow is often sold to a corporation. Some of it is sold as fresh fruits and vegetables, but a lot of it is processed, packaged, and branded. Therefore, corporations get rich on both ends. (Ward is still citing Goodman and Redclift here, but Kloppenburg's First the Seed is a great read about agriculture and capitalist accumulation.) Ward writes, "The pattern of accumulation, they argue, is shaped by the biological constraints of the agricultural production process and human food consumption requirements, but in the process of transforming agriculture, environmental problems have resulted" (Ward 1993:354).

In other words, the normal rules of capitalism, when applied to agriculture, run headlong into nature. A farm isn't a factory. It doesn't play by the same rules. Therefore, the way capitalism has developed in agriculture is shaped by nature, and it in turn led to environmental problems.

Continuing with Goodman and Redclift, two processes were at play in adapting the agri-food system to Fordism. First, capital needed to develop new markets for commodities and second, "the mutual interests of a scientific community and agro-industrial capital in adopting a high-technology model of agricultural production and development" (Ward 1993:354). Through these processes, the agricultural treadmill became system-wide.

The changes to the Fordist/Productivist regime came about beginning in the 1980s when states in North America and Europe started to halt or reduce the subsidies that had propped it up (Ward 1991:357). Simultaneously, many countries became more concerned over food quality and the environment (Ward 1991:357). This is where the shift began to Post-Productivist agriculture (or at least Ward says so - some other scholars question it):

"In the Post-Productivist era "The economic pressures now faced on farms arise directly from the consequences of the technology/policy model in the Fordist regime of accumulation. Accumulation has become concentrated in those sectors of the modern food system both upstream and downstream of the farm such that farmers’ economic position in the food system is being weakened. In turn, agriculture not only receives a shrinking share of total value-added in the food production process, but the nature of farming practice becomes increasingly determined by off-farm interests, either because of the power of input manufacturers to influence patterns of technological change (Munton et aI. 1990) or because food processors and retailers exert pressures through contract purchasing arrangements to determine food quality specifications" (Ward 1991:358).

I believe what he is saying there is that farmers were price takers on both ends (on buying inputs and selling commodities) which put a squeeze on them, and farmers are getting a decreasing "farm share" (the amount of each dollar spent on food that goes directly back to the farmer). He goes on to say:
"The combination in the 1970s of a production- oriented support policy without constraints on the quantity produced and low real interest rates encouraged high levels of debt-financed investment in agricultural land, machinery and buildings. However, by the mid-1980s, and following the EC’s attempts to curtail over-production, farmers who had followed this strategy of business growth became embroiled in a debt trap of rising real interests rates, collapsing land values and falling farm incomes" (Ward 1991:358).

In other words, there was the farm crisis of the 1980s, and a lot of farmers lost their farms. Those who remained often got larger, buying up the land of those who lost their farms. During the same period, the effects of environmental harm were catching up to everyone, and nations began to put environmental regulations in place (Ward 1991:358).

This is where counterurbanization fits in. As people move from cities and suburbs to the country to enjoy rural life (and not farm themselves), "a growing number of farmers now have new neighbours who often have quite different ideas about how the rural environment should be managed... The farmers felt that social change in the countryside has further diminished their autonomy." (Ward 1991:359).

It's at the end here that Ward makes any reference at all to the question of whether agriculture has actually changed from productivist to post-productivist (which some scholars doubt):

"The treadmill continues to trundle on, however, in part because the productivist rationale or ethos remains prevalent among agricultural interests. This need not necessarily be solely because the technology/policy model served the interests of the agricultural industry (or at least those sections which survived through accumulation) but because the productivist era was characterized by clearly defined goals of expansion and technological ‘progression’ about which there was little disagreement. Achieving the goals of producing food for the nation facilitated a sense of pride in the industry" (Ward 1991:359).

Farmers are now farming in a different context from the productivist heyday of the 1950s and 1960s, but that doesn't necessarily mean the farmers themselves have changed - or want to change.

Sources cited:
Goodman, D. and M. Redclift (1991), Refashioning Nature: Food, Ecology and Culture (London: Routledge).
Ward, Neil. 1993. "The Agricultural Treadmill and the Rural Environment in the Post-Productivist Era." Sociologia Ruralis, 33: 348–364. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9523.1993.tb00969.x

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Stryker, Sheldon. 1980. Symbolic Interactionism: A Social Structural Version

Stryker's book on symbolic interactionism is one of the driest books I have ever attempted to read. Therefore, I am going to summarize part of it here to hopefully save myself from having to ever re-read it.

Stryker begins by noting that symbolic interactionism, as he means it, is a "frame of reference" or "perspective" but not a "theory" (p. 8). Why? Because theories are falsifiable (p. 10). That is, you can test a theory and, if it is false, you can prove it false with evidence (p. 8). What he offers as the symbolic interaction frame of reference is not falsifiable. Also, a frame of reference does not exclude other frames of reference (p. 9). That is, they can both be true.

Next, he gives his perspective on science. Specifically, a theory can be considered true even if it does not explain every single case (p. 11). This is first because "no two events or behaviors are precisely alike" and second because "science can never comprehend events or behaviors in their full complexity" (p. 11). Therefore, he rejects a "deterministic" view of science (p. 10-11); that is, he rejects the idea that "it must be possible to explicate a complete set of causes sufficient to account for every case without exception of some behavior" (p 11). Instead, he says it is enough for science to explain "some regulatory in the behavior one is interested in" (p. 11).

Next, Stryker begins to trace the intellectual history of symbolic interactionism. The term was created by Herbert Blumer in 1937. However, the line of thinking that led up to Blumer's work is a long one, beginning with the Scottish moral philosophers David Hume, Frances Hutcheson, Adam Smith, Adam Ferguson "and others" (p. 16). These men were empiricists (p. 17). "They denied that men were motivated by reason, but they saw the source of human action variously in sympathy, common sense, moral sense, belief, instinct, and habit" (p. 17-18). Additionally, they believed that "psychology itself could not be comperehended without taking into account the facts of human association" (p. 18). In other words, if you want to understand the psychology of any one human, you have to also understand their interactions with other humans.

Here is a summary of their contributions:
  • Adam Smith: People understand if their own conduct is acceptable by seeing how others react to it. The reactions of others serve as a sort of mirror. (p. 18) Sympathy allows us to empathize - to feel the emotions someone else is feeling (p. 19). "Society becomes a vast network of interpersonal communication through which the participants are controlled by the approval and disapproval, the desires and evaluations of others" (p. 19).
  • David Hume: Humans are dependent on family and community for survival. They develop sympathy, the "psychological tendency to share the feelings of others" even if others' feelings are very different from one's own (p. 19).
  • Adam Ferguson: He wrote about instinct vs. habit. If people have instincts, they also are free to act differently from them. It's difficult to tell habits from instincts even though habits are acquired through human interaction and instincts are innate. If we could distinguish between them, Ferguson believes "habit has a larger role in human behavior than does instinct" (p. 20).
  • William James: Very influenced by Darwin, wrote about instinct vs habit, consciousness, and the self. James says that instinct is "the faculty to produce certain ends, without the foresight of these ends and without prior learning" (p. 21). He believes instincts are "superseded" by habit, defined as "behavior learned and modified (and modifiable) by experience. The basis of habit is memory" (p. 22). "Human beings can and do develop attitudse and feelings about themselves and see themselves as they see any other object in the external world" (p. 22). James distinguishes between four different types of selves: the material self, the spiritual self, the social self, and pure ego (p. 22). Stryker is interested in the social self. It appears that the social self is the idea of you that each person who knows you has in their mind? (p. 23). In any case, one has a different social self for each different group of people whose opinion one cares about, and if their opinion of your social self is harmed, then you are harmed (p. 23). People naturally want "to be recognized by other human beings" and that is the basis for self esteem. But James divides self esteem into two parts. The "subjective" part is your aspirations (how you want to be seen); the objective part is in "the recognition one gets from others" (p. 23).

I think this is likely a very poor description of the work of William James and his social self, and my understanding of what Stryker wrote may be inaccurate. I don't know that I can make more sense of it from Stryker's words without actually reading what James wrote in Principles of Psychology (New York: Holt, 1890), Vol II, p. 291-294.

James Mark Baldwin
Next in Stryker's line is James Mark Baldwin (p. 23-24). He modified James' concept of the self but believed the entire self is "social in its origins" (p. 24). He posited three stages children go through: projective, subjective, and ejective. The first consists of "becoming aware of others, drawing distinctions between them and objects, and differentiating among others" (that is, telling different people apart). Second, the child imitates the behavior of others and learns that there are feelings associated with that behavior (p. 24). Last, the child learns that other people have feelings too. Baldwin's work influences Cooley and G.H. Mead.

John Dewey
Dewey believes that social customs are collective habits (p 24). Habits are the basis of individual personality formation, and customs are the basis of social organization, but because customs are collective habits, "the individual cannot be set in contrast to society; there can be no deep chasm or fundamental opposition between the self and social order; and personality develops within a social context" (p. 24). I'm skipping about a page of Dewey but Stryker highlights two ideas from his work. First, "his rejection of the conception of society as a monolithic structure" because "society consists of many associations and not a single organization" (p. 26). Second, Dewey insisted that social science and philosophy focus on "everyday situations and problems" (p. 36).

Charles Horton Cooley
Up to this point, most of the people noted are philosophers and psychologists. Cooley brings their work into sociology (p. 26). To Cooley, each of us has a conception of society in our mind. Stryker has a very good paragraph about this (which he calls a "subjectivist" perspective) that seems worth sharing:

"It is this way of thinking about social relationships that has been criticized as solipsistic. That is, if imaginations are the solid facts of society, it seems to follow that there are as many societies as there are individual imaginations. If our imaginations differ, how can we get beyond these differences and to what do we refer these differences in order to build general knowledge in society?" (p. 27).

Cooley, while never naming Adam Smith as an influence, ran with his concept of the looking glass self. Stryker describes Cooleys ideas as, "The self is a social product; it is defined and developed in social interaction" (p. 28). Cooley believed the social self has three components: "our imagining how we appear to another person, our imagining that other person's judgment of our appearance; and some self-feeling, such as pride or mortification, that arises from these imaginations" (p. 29).

Last, Cooley believed that the "primary group" of each of us as children - the family, the play group, and the neighborhood - are the most important to the development of each individual's self (p. 29).

William Isaac Thomas
Whereas Cooley was concerned with the formation of self in childhood, Thomas was concerned with it in adulthood (p. 30). We can thank W.I. Thomas for the term "the definition of the situation" (which I usually associate most with Goffman). Stryker writes, "It is the task of sociology to analyze behavior, the forms taken by the processes of adjustment of people and groups to other people and groups. Adjustment processes necessarily occur in situations; that is, adjustment processes are responses to objective circumstances in which individuals and groups are embedded" (pp. 30-31). However, each of the people has their own subjective interpretation of what is going on - the definition of the situation (p. 31). Their own subjective interpretation of the situation is their reality.

What's more, one's subjective reality is socially acquired: "Children... are always born into an ongoing group that has developed definitions of the general kinds of situations faced and has formulated rules of conduct premised on these definitions: moral codes are the outcome of "successive definitions of the situation."" (pp. 31-32). He continues, "Children cannot create their own definitions independently of society, or behave in those terms without societal interference" (p. 32). Furthermore, if an individual tries to create their own definition spontaneously, they tend to do so for hedonic reasons (what feels good), whereas society sets its definitions based on utilitarian reasons (what is good for society). Therefore, socialization is the process of "bringing the person to interanlize societal definitions" (p. 32). But what does the word "situation" mean? Well, apparently that was never terribly precise and it sort of shifted around throughout his career (p. 32).

George Herbert Mead
Mead is the most important precursor to symbolic interactionism. "Picking up from Dewey, he argues that persons initiate activity that relate to themselves and the environment; that is, the persons do not simply respond to external "stimuli" existing apart from the activity. Activity begins with an impulse without ordained end, and the humans seek to satisfy that impulse by adjusting behavior to the objects in the environment. Those objects become stimuli through functioning in the context of the act, during which they may become defined as relevant to the completion of the act" (p. 36). Therefore, as one feels hungry and looks for food, objects in the environment that were just sitting there as objects (berries) "become redefined as food. Stimuli acquire meaning in the course of activity (p. 36).

When completing an action requires other humans, Mead calls that a "social act." Social acts occur over a period of time and the early stages are "gestures" (making a fist is a gesture indicating that a punch is coming next) (p. 36-37). And here's where we get closer to symbolic interactionism itself. "Communication between persons involves a "conversation of gestures"" (p. 37). And some gestures acquire the same meaning to both parties, the one doing the gesturing and the one on the receiving end. These are "significant symbols" (p. 37). Language is "a system of significant symbols" and it allows us to understand other people's point of view, including how they see us. Taking on someone else's point of view is called "role-taking" (p. 37).

Because I am lazy, I will refer you to this Khan Academy video on Mead's work. Going off the material in the video, it is the "I-me" dialectic - the continued back and forth between the I and the Me - through which society continually shapes the self (p. 39).

Role Theory, Etc
Stryker says that the intellectual lineage traced above culminates in what Herbert Blumer calls symbolic interactionism. But there's another lineage with no main figure associated with it leading to another variant of symbolic interactionism. It comes from role theory (p. 39). The main idea here is that there is an objective reality that exists in society apart from individual actors definitions of the situation. Here, he brings in the work of Georg Simmel, Max Weber, and Ralph Linton (p. 40).

Georg Simmel
According to Simmel "society is neither a mere collection of individuals... nor an entity existing apart from individuals" (p. 41). It is "the name for a number of individuals, connected by interaction" (Simmel, The Sociology of Georg Simmel, 1950, p. 11). Simmel writes of "sociation," defined as "the interaction of minds, the conscious association of persons" (p. 41). In joining society, an individual gives up some of his or her individuality to meet the demands of society, but the individual remains unique (pp. 41-42).

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Moral Visions of Nature

Nature has many different meanings to people (Bell 1994:8 ). Americans can be categorized into socially constructed groups based on how they view nature from a moral perspective: utilitarian, spiritual, and biocentric (Farrell 2015). I adopt Farrell's framework because his description of the social construction of three moral visions within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem are grounded in the history of the area from the time the first Euro-American fur traders arrived in the 1800s, rather than static categories applied universally without regard to social construction or place.

Others have also grouped people by how they view humans' relationship with nature. The concept is referred to as "values" (Ellis 2013), "value orientations" (Hand and Van Liere 1984), "ideologies" (Manfredo et al 2009), or "attitude types" (Kellert 1985). Most refer to humans' orientations to nature, but Kellert's scheme refers specifically to humans' orientation to non-human animals.

Some scholars simply examine dominionism, the orientation in which humans see nature as something to dominate for their own use. Some believe the teachings of Christianity cause dominionism (White 1967; Hand and Van Liere 1984); eco-feminists attribute it to masculinity (Emel 1995). Occasionally, the mastery-over-nature concept is referred to as utilitarianism, evoking a human desire not just to conquer nature but to use its resources. Others see mastery over nature as one side of a spectrum, and the other side is human coexistence with nature. Manfredo et al (2009) does so, naming them "domination" and "mutualism." Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck (1961) propose spectrum from what they call "mastery-over-nature" to "harmony-with-nature" to a third category, "subjection-to-nature."

Ellis (2013) found that cattle ranchers saw their relationships with the land and cattle as mutualistic, even though their relationship with them was actually dominionistic. He called this "an ideological trick that mystifies exploitation and allows us not to engage with the difficult ethical and moral questions that are omnipresent within these relationships" (p 445). He bases his judgment that the ranchers are dominionistic on their use of cattle as meat and their use of land to graze cattle. However, the ranchers view themselves as husbands and stewards who care for the cattle and the land to preserve their ranch for future generations.

Kellert (1985) describes nine different "attitude types" toward animals, and other scholars have adopted his scheme (George et al 2016; Bjerke et al 1998; Nie 2005). Kellert's categories utilitarian, dominionistic, and negativistic correspond to traits of a dominionist or utilitarian according to the schemes described above (Kellert 1985: 170). Kellert's traits naturalistic, humanistic, moralistic, and aesthetic map to mutualism in the schemes above, and to Farrell's concept spiritualistic, described below. Kellert's traits ecologistic and scientistic correspond to mutualism and to Farrell's biocentric, described below.

Manfredo et al (2009) and Farrell (2015) are both concerned with change from a dominionistic or utilitarian moral order to a more harmonious one (mutualistic to Manfredo et al, spiritual and biocentric to Farrell). Manfredo et al, attribute the shift to "modernization" (urbanization, increased wealth, and higher education), explaining that as people move further from relying on wildlife as a food source, they become more free to think of wildlife in different ways from when they directly relied on them for food.

Farrell emphasizes the social construction of three "moral visions:" utilitarian, spiritual, and biocentric. The first white Americans feared nature and faced danger as they moved west and tamed and civilized (in their view) the wilderness. As they worked hard, the work they did (and do) extracting resources from nature became a moral virtue and the workers themselves virtuous (p. 35). To them, the earth was given to humans for their domination and use, and humans are above other species in a natural order. They were utilitarians, who believe the earth is for humans' use. In the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, utilitarians are characterized by rugged individualism and a belief in manifest destiny, private property rights, and anti-federalism (p. 35). They have a deep connection to the place where they do their labor in nature, and their epistemology is based on practical experience and tradition in that place (Farrell 2015: 38).

John Muir and Henry David Thoreau exemplify the spiritual moral vision. With its roots in 19th century romanticism and transcendentalism, at a time when white Americans were exploiting natural resources without restraint, it is an attempt to "(re)sacralize nature in response to materialist and consumerist pressures of American life" (p. 36). Those with a spiritual moral vision may or may not link their views on nature to religious beliefs, but they all emphasize communion with nature through spending time in it and protecting every creature in nature, even the seemingly insignificant ones (Farrell 2015: 36). Their moral vision may be connected with their religious faith, but it is not necessarily so. Their epistemology is based on senses, emotion, and religious influence (Farrell 2015: 38).

These first two moral visions appear similar to, but not identical to, agrarianism and ruralism (Buttel and Flinn 1977). Thoreau was a ruralist, and ruralism's roots go back to American romanticism, while agrarianism includes utilitarian values. However, there is a class distinction between agrarians and ruralists. The ruralists, who are often upper-middle class, can live "in the country, without being of it" (p. 545). The genteel country gentleman "might take up the hoe for diversion but not for a living" (p. 545). The virtues one gains from and exhibits in nature do not derive from working the land for the ruralist. Ruralists looked down on those who worked the land; agrarians, exemplified by the yeoman farmer, looked down on those who didn't (p. 546). Like Farrell, they describe a conflict when agrarians and ruralists attempt to enact competing visions of the proper relationship between humans and nature.

This analysis of the two competing moral visions that identifies them as belonging to different classes, adds the idea that those in the utilitarian camp can't afford to switch to ruralism - or spiritualism - because they need to make a living from the land: "Most farmers lack the funds and leisure time for arcadian country living and tended to view the land in utilitarian terms. This utilitarian value could make the farmer a soulless plunderer in the eyes of the ruralist, who found elevation - not mere economic sustenance - in the country" (Buttel and Flinn 1977: 546).

National forests are managed according to utilitarian ideals, and national parks were initially managed according to Muir's spiritual ideals (Duncan and Burns 2009). Despite Muir's belief that all animals were God's creatures, national park policy was to eliminate predators in order to promote healthy flocks of prey species like deer and elk. It was the third and final moral vision that led to embracing predators in the parks - and outside of them.

Darwin and Aldo Leopold ushered in the third moral vision, biocentric. Darwin placed humans back among animals instead of separate from and above them. Leopold emphasized the value of intact ecosystems and discovered that predators have a niche in a balanced ecosystem. He saw that areas with Mexican grey wolves also had healthy deer populations and healthy vegetation, but where the wolf was extirpated, the deer overpopulated and overgrazed the vegetation (Leopold 1949). Adolph Murie in particular was instrumental in discovering that the wolves of Denali National Park were not responsible for a decline in the population of Dall sheep as was commonly thought. The decrease in Dall sheep, he found, was actually due to a harsh winter. He published his work in 1944.

The epistemology of the biocentric moral vision is scientific consensus (Farrell 2015: 38). They value intact ecosystems that function in an equilibrium and they see humans as one species among many interconnected species, but not above them (Farrell 2015: 36). Wilson (1997) also uses the term "biocentric" to describe a similar concept.

The spiritual and biocentric viewpoints are compatible enough that the same individual can adopt them both. Both call for leaving nature alone to preserve it, and the same person may idealize intact ecosystems from a scientific perspective and feel spiritually elevated by hiking or hearing the howls of wild wolves. A content analysis of pro-wolf public comment letters submitted in response to the US Fish and Wildlife Service proposal to delist gray wolves from the endangered species list in Wyoming found that writers commonly invoked values from both moral visions (Farrell 2015: 208). For example, of all of the letters that gave either spiritual or ecological reasons to continue listing wolves as endangered, 26 percent included both (Farrell 2015: 209).

A second way sociologists categorize human views of nature came from philosophy. Both utilitarianism and spiritualism are separatist concepts of nature, viewing nature as that which excludes human activity (Bell 1994:121). The Native American way to properly interact with nature, which involves "establishing a deeply experiential and reciprocal relationship with" plants and animals, and the biocentric one are holistic, including humans as part of nature (Anderson 2005).

Philosophers find faults with both separatist and holistic views (Bell 1994:122). The problems of holism are apparent in the management of Yellowstone itself. If humans are part of nature, then why must we set aside land for a natural park, separate from other human developments? If humans and human activity is natural, then why does preserving nature within Yellowstone require limiting human activity there?

Separatism allows us to sidestep these questions, as the park can be considered natural by a separatist definition because it is (relatively) free of human influence. Of course, it has been heavily managed by people, but less so than, say, Manhattan. And as long as one ignores the roads and hotels, or the human extirpation and reintroduction of wolves, or the fact that Native Americans lived on this land and impacted it for thousands of years before Euro-Americans "discovered" it in a "pristine" state (and the expelled the Native Americans from the park), one can imagine they are in a wilderness untouched by humans.

In the U.S., the two separatist visions, utilitarian and spiritual, "left us with a schizophrenic approach to the natural world: humans either conquer nature and destroy its integrity, or they visit it as an outsider, idealizing its beauty and largely leaving it alone... Both positions treat nature as an abstraction - separate from humans and not understood, not real" (Anderson 2005)

Given the contradictions in both holism and separatism, humans may find a way to creatively combine them in their belief systems (Bell 1994:131-135). Or they may maintain a separatist mindset but solve its problems with pastoralism (Bell 1994:125). Pastoralism creates a gradient in which cities are further from nature and rural life (particularly in the past) is closer to it, drawing a contrast between "habits of living between societies of the natural rural past and the unnatural urban present" (Bell 1994:125). Ruralists (Buttel and Flinn 1977) and spiritualists (Farrell 2015) exhibit pastoralism. People who believe in both spiritual and biocentric moral visions must find a way to reconcile the separatism of the former and the holism of the latter in their concept of nature.

Perhaps Farrell's utilitarians are pastoralists too, as they find moral virtue in working in nature in the rural areas of the Northern Rocky Mountains. However, it is difficult to reconcile their belief that nature is to be used by humans with pastoralism. They idealize their lives as "outdoorsmen" but also believe that the wilderness should be conquered and civilized by humans in the name of progress. After a forest has been clear cut for lumber, how is it still natural to a separatist? And yet, logging forests or mining ore or drilling for gas and oil are the very uses to which utilitarians believe nature should be put.

Sources:
* Anderson, MK. 2005. Tending the Wild: Native American Knowledge and the Management of California's Natural Resources. University of California Press.
* Bell, M.M. 1994. Childerly: Nature and Morality in a Country Village.
* Bjerke et al. 1998. "Attitudes Toward Wolves in Southeastern Norway." Society and Natural Resources 11(2):169-178.
* Buttel and Flinn. 1977. "Conceptions of Rural Life and Environmental Concern." Rural Sociology, 42, 4,
* Duncan, Dayton and Ken Burns. 2009. The National Parks: America's Best Idea. Alfred A. Knopf.
* Ellis, Colter. “The Symbiotic Ideology: Stewardship, Husbandry, and Dominion in Beef Production.” Rural Sociology 78, no. 4 (December 1, 2013): 429–49. https://doi.org/10.1111/ruso.12031.
* Emel. 1995. "Are You Man Enough, Big and Bad Enough? Ecofeminism and Wolf Eradication in the USA."
* George et al. 2016. "Changes in Attitudes Toward Animals in the United States from 1978 to 2014."
* Hand and Van Liere. 1984. Religion, Mastery-Over-Nature, and Environmental Concern. Social Forces 63(2):555-570.
* Farrell. 2015. Battle for Yellowstone: Morality and the Sacred Roots of Environmental Conflict. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
* Kellert. 1985. "Public Perception of Predators, Particularly the Wolf and Coyote." Biological Conservation 31(2): 167-169.
* Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck. 1961. "Variations in Value Orientations." Row Peterson.
* Manfredo et al. 2009. "Linking Society and Environment: A Multilevel Model of Shifting Wildlife Value Orientations in the Western United States." Social Science Quarterly 90(2): 407-427.
* Nie. 2003. Beyond wolves: The politics of wolf recovery and management.
* White, L. 1967. "The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis." Science 155:1203-07.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Kloppenburg. 1991. "Social Theory and the De/Reconstruction of Agricultural Science: Local Knowledge for an Alternative Agriculture."

Kloppenburg, J. (1991), Social Theory and the De/Reconstruction of Agricultural Science: Local Knowledge for an Alternative Agriculture. Rural Sociology, 56: 519–548. doi:10.1111/j.1549-0831.1991.tb00445.x

Kloppenburg begins with a quote by Carol Cohn that refers to "militarized masculinity and decontextualized rationality." Although there is more to the quote, and the rest of the quote relates better to Kloppenburg's purpose, those words caught my attention.

Kloppenburg is writing as an activist, an advocate of sustainable agriculture, and a critic of what we now call either conventional or production or industrial agriculture. Making the leap from the form of agriculture he opposes to the one he supports involves a "deconstructive task" - "the demonstration that agricultural science as currently constituted provides neither a complete, nor an adequate, nor even a best possible account of the sphere of agricultural production" and a "reconstructive task" - "the identification and legitimation of alternative sources of knowledge production for agriculture - sources which now have no voice, or speak without authority, or simply are not heard in contemporary agroscientific discourse" (p. 520). The deconstruction began with Rachel Carson and Silent Spring in 1962. For the reconstruction, he advocates "local knowledge."

Calling the deconstruction project "more a diffuse historical tendency than a coherent project" (p. 521), Kloppenburg cites critiques not just about conventional agriculture's ecological impact, but also its social one. Additionally, there are critiques of "the manner in which particular social interests gain differential influence over the institutional structure of knowledge production" - in other words, a few powerful agribusiness interests disproportionately influence call the shots (p. 521). Kloppenburg points to several critiques of the "validity and utility of the methodologies employed in research and the epistemic constitution of knowledge production itself" (p. 521). This sentence is so good I'll just quote it in full: "A growing number of biological scientists are concerned that the reductionistic and positivistic approaches characteristic of modern science constrain pursuit of unorthodox but potentially productive research initiatives, obscure important connections between organisms and phenomena, and actively inhibit achievement of holistic understanding of ecological systems" (p. 521). He cites as sources Suppe 1988; Allen and Starr 1982; Levins and Lewontin 1985; MacRae et al. 1989; Odum 1989; Prigogine and Stengers 1984.

After naming organizations calling for sustainable agriculture, Kloppenburg provides the response from Big Ag and some agricultural scientists: knowledge creation is for the scientists alone. If we are to have a different type of agriculture, it will be developed by them: "The objective is to control the shape that alternative agriculture will take by insisting upon the hegemony of existing science and thereby limiting the type and range of knowledges that can be brought to bear upon the construction of an alternative agriculture" (p. 522).

Therefore, Kloppenburg reframes his notion of a deconstructive project, adding that it is not to take down the current type of agriculture practiced in this country but the entire system of how agricultural knowledge is produced and legitimized: "The object... is not simply what should constitute alternative agriculture but - even more fundamentally - who is even to have the power to speak authoritatively in that debate, who is to have a voice at all" (p. 523).

For Kloppenburg, the reconstruction project involves not just a reconstruction of agricultural practices, but a reconstruction of agricultural science, of how agricultural knowledge is produced.

In the next section, Kloppenburg places science in a social context. In other words, he's pulling back the curtain on "decontextualized rationality." I'd like to quote a few particularly beautiful passages:

"In contemporary society, what we call science enjoys a privileged status among the possible ways of establishing knowledge about the world" (Aronowitz 1988; Marcuse 1964; Mulkay 1979) (p. 524).

"The mental productions we call scientific knowledge are no less subject to social influences than are the products of any other way of knowing and are, therefore, the fruits of a scientific enquiry that must be envisioned as, in Knorr-Cetina's (1981 :3) succinct phrasing, "constructive rather than descriptive."" (p. 524)

"The "facticity" of science is not comprised of objective descriptions of a determinate natural world but of socially contingent constructions provides a foundation for a powerful new critique of science" (p. 524).

In other words, the scientific method is but one way of producing knowledge and, due to social factors, we privilege this way of producing knowledge above all others. However, that does not make knowledge produced in other ways necessarily false. What it does do is tie knowledge production to power relations. In this case, it means that the most powerful interests in agriculture get to frame the problems, decide what gets studied, and limit the range of solutions considered, and the less powerful do not. He cites Gieryn 1983. Then he finishes by stating that if this system is socially constructed then it can also be socially reconstructed in a better, more equitable way.

Kloppenburg ties this to the work of feminists, writing, "As Keller (1987:37-38) points out, this conclusion follows logically from a central premise of feminist studies generally: just as gender is a socially constructed representation (rather than a precise reflection) of sex, so is science a socially constructed representation (rather than a precise reflection) of nature" (p 525).

To unpack this point, he bring's up Harding's (1986) "three tendencies in feminist thinking about the production of scientific knowledge:" "feminist empiricism," "feminist postmodernism," and "feminist standpoint" theory (p. 526). The first, feminist empiricism calls for "more rigorous adherence to the existing scientific method" to produce a larger but not a separate body of knowledge. Feminist postmodernism, if I am reading correctly, calls for more inclusiveness in who does science but does not think that all will come together to produce a single body of knowledge. Rather, there will be multiple different bodies of knowledge, each of which are "partial knowledges." The third approach, feminist standpoint, calls for a feminist version of science to supplant the existing science we have, as it will be superior.

Kloppenburg makes clear that he's not interested in endorsing one or all of these three approaches, but in their shared recognition that (he's quoting another author here):
"no rigid boundary separates the subject of knowledge (the knower) and the natural object of that knowledge; where the subject/object split is not used to legitimize the domination of nature; where nature itself is conceptualized as active rather than passive, a dynamic and complex totality requiring human cooperation and understanding rather than a dead mechanism, requiring only manipulation and control (Fee 1986:47)." (Quoted in Kloppenburg p. 526)
In other words, he's still saying that scientifically produced knowledge under the current system is not the only way to produce valid knowledge, and the current system of knowledge production reflects our current social structure. In the quote, Fee is also claiming that men maintain a false separation between the scientific subject and its object (the scientist in the lab coat is outside the cage of rats he is studying and he presumably has no effect on them, or they on him, and none of the social structure of the world impacts the research he is doing on them, and Fee thinks that is false).

Kloppenburg takes issue with the notion that making this correction to science is uniquely feminist. Fee wrote that other groups besides women have also made the same critique, and Kloppenburg sums up her point of view: "What feminists criticize as masculinist science is also criticized from other standpoints - differently situated knowledges, one might say - as European science, or imperialist science, or bourgeois science" (p. 527).

So apparently one does not need to be a woman to critique the existing version of science or to reform it.

Kloppenburg then synthesizes the work of several feminist scholars to call for and define what he calls "local knowledge."

"I agree with Fee that this spirit of eclecticism-of "shared conversations in epistemology" (Haraway 1988:584)-is the most fruitful analytical approach in a world of multiple identities and hyphenated commitments. One of the central themes in the feminist analysis of science is the importance of legitimating and reaffirming the value of producing knowledge through "sensuous activity" (Rose 1986:72) and "personal experience" (Harding 1986:240) that is necessarily and specifically "local" (and therefore neither universalizing nor essentializing) in character (Smith 1987). I suggest that what I will call "local knowledge" is an expression of such production and that it is the global ubiquity of this form of knowledge production that accounts at least in part for the curious coincidences noted by Harding and Fee" (p. 527)

In fact, he points out that a number of other scholars who aren't feminists or even women also offer up ideas about different types of knowledge:

"A wide variety of analysts from the phenomenologist philosophers to contemporary anthropologists have tried to illuminate this epistemic distinction through elaboration of a range of paired concepts: "tacit knowledge/ scientific knowledge" (Polanyi 1966), "science of the concrete/science" (Levi-Strauss 1962), "life-world knowledge/scientific knowledge" (Bohme 1984; Husserl 1970), "craft knowledge/scientific knowledge" (Braverman 1974), "practical labor/science" (Bittner 1983), "folk wisdom/processed knowledge" (Krimsky 1984), "indigenous knowledge/scientific knowledge" (Richards 1985), "working knowledge/scientific knowledge" (Harper 1987)" (p. 528).

This distinction reminds me of an ethnobotany class I took years ago. There were two professors, a Luiseno man trained by a revered Kumeyaay elder and a white woman who had a graduate degree in botany. When presented with plants to identify, the man would use his senses - and sometimes even taste the unknown plant in order to confirm its identity. The woman, who would absolutely NEVER put an unidentified plant in her mouth, would dissect the flower, view it under a microscope, and count its various parts (sepals, petals, male parts, and female parts). She'd see if it had an inferior or superior ovary, if it was a composite flower or not, and so on. This would tell her which plant family the flower was in, and from there she could go about looking at its other attributes - leaf shape, leaf margins, size, color, etc - to determine which exact species it was.

Although both could accurately identify just about any local plant you put in front of them - often the types of information they had about the plant were complementary. The man knew how to use plants medicinally, and which ones could be eaten. The botanist had not learned anything of the sort in graduate school, but she did give us a helpful explanation about the evolution of plants, and how phloem and xylem really work. The course was valuable because both perspectives were taught. I believe that is what Kloppenburg is saying here, that currently we have just one point of view and not the other, and we need the other - especially when the one we have currently is letting us down so badly, as he believes it is.

Kloppenburg defines local knowledge as derived from lived experience: "Such knowledge is local in the sense that it is derived from the direct experience of a labor process which is itself shaped and delimited by the distinctive characteristics of a particular place with a unique social and physical environment" (p. 528). This eliminates the boundary between subject and object. "This holistic sense of the substance and context of the labor process produces a unified field of knowledge that is finely tuned to the concrete exigencies, needs, and requirements of local conditions" (p. 528).

He defines the current system of producing scientific knowledge as Cartesian reductionism - "the practice of breaking a problem down into discrete components, analyzing these separate parts in isolation from each other, and then reconstructing the system from the interpretations of the parts (Levins and Lewontin 1985:2; Merchant 1980: 182)" (p. 530).

The flaws in the current version of science are that they "fit all too well with the premium placed on power and control by authoritarian and patriarchal society and have served to reinforce the domination of women and nature (Bleier 1986; Longino 1990; Merchant 1980)" and they "involve a loss of context (social and political as well as physical and biological) which encourages a hierarchical and linear rather than an interactive and ecological view of nature (Aronowitz 1988; MacRae et al. 1989; Odum 1989:177; Prigogine and Stengers 1984)" (p. 530). The other side of the coin of Cartesianism is the "neglect and delegitimation of local knowledge production" (p. 530). He writes, "Because it is reductive, abstracting, and interested in the immutable components of a phenomenon, science loses connection with the variability of local systems" (p. 530).

Kloppenburg writes:

"The route to solutions to problems at the whole-farm level-at the local system level-runs not through agricultural scientists, but through those who think in terms of whole farms, those whose experiences are of whole farms, and whose knowledge has been developed by the integration of hand, brain, and heart in caring labor on whole farms-that is, through farmers. We should be exploring how to bring farmers and their local knowledge back into formal knowledge production for agriculture" (p. 531).

In other words, even if a particular variety of seeds can produce a particularly high yield on an experimental farm (which generally means it is grown under the best possible conditions), that does not mean that that same seed variety will actually work best for a real farmer on a real farm. This has been a problem I have seen myself, often on peasant farms in other countries. The scientists at the land grant university or the multinational corporation may come up with a dwarf variety of high yielding grain, but at the local level it causes problems because actually the farmers use the long stalks of their existing varieties as animal feed or for some other purpose, and the new variety deprives them of that. Or because the new variety, while high yielding, does not taste as good to locals. Or perhaps the crop produced is just fine, but after a farmer borrows money to buy high tech seeds and the chemical inputs needed to go with them and then sells the crop and pays back the loan with interest, the farmer makes less net income than if he or she had planted a lower yielding landrace variety from saved seeds that did not require borrowing money or purchasing inputs. Or because, while the seeds work great under ideal conditions, the farmers at the local level do not have ideal conditions - no irrigation, or sloped land, or poor soil, or bad drainage - and under those conditions the seeds do not produce well at all.

For the farmer, the profitability or viability of the entire farm matters. The farmer's own lifestyle matters too if you want to bring in the ideas of Chayanov, who wrote that peasant farmers work up until the point where the benefits gained from work no longer outweigh the drudgery of doing the work itself. The simple reductionist factor that made the high tech seed so valuable to scientists - high yield - is but one factor in many to the farmer, and it may or may not be a seed that is ultimately the most beneficial to the entire farm as a whole and to the farmer.

Another line that struck me as important was this one: "Prodded now and then to treat people as subjects rather than objects, to engage in a pedagogy "with, not for the oppressed" (Freire 1970:33), or to try "reverse learning ... to learn from farmers" (Chambers 1983)" (p. 532). In the particular case I am studying now, the scientists who study the issue (how to bring back a viable wolf population despite the unpopularity of wolves among many and the very real problem that wolves sometimes eat pet dogs and livestock) see the population that will now have to coexist with wolves as the object of study in a top-down investigation.

Often the scientists see those who dislike wolves as an obstacle to overcome. An obstacle for they, the scientists, to discover how to overcome. What if we allow trophy hunting? What if we educate people about wolves? Or we could compensate people for lost livestock? Then will they like the wolves? No? We can study why not. One source I read called this a "techno-rational" approach and critiques it for failing to see the wider social reality influencing the conflict (Nie, 2003, Beyond Wolves). But it also sees those who live among wolves as objects of study for scientists who are the legitimate people to make the right decisions (as David Mech believes, according to Nie p. 40) or to at least offer the public a menu of potential solutions and their implications as a doctor would offer a patient options for treatment and the benefits and risks of each (Nie p. 41). In either case, the people who live among wolves are not a part of the creation of knowledge except as objects of scientific study.

I am skipping past quite a bit of this article that seems less relevant to my own work at present. Then Kloppenburg comes to a section entitled "Accepting partiality: articulating situated knowledges" in which he writes, "What we need to do is to establish conversations among these partial perspectives and ground them in the specific and material context of the agricultural sector" (p. 537). It sounds like he is saying that local knowledge should not supplant scientific knowledge. The two should work side by side, together, as they did in the ethnobotany class I wrote about above, each recognizing that they both have something valuable to contribute.

He writes, "Nevertheless, by expressing a preference for the term "local knowledge," the implication is that "locality" - in the sense of inseparability from a particular place in the sense of embeddedness in a particular labor process - is the key distinguishing feature of this type of knowledge" (p. 537). While I had started to think of what he calls local knowledge as lived knowledge - knowledge gained through lived experience - here Kloppenburg emphasizes that place matters. This knowledge is not just produced through lived experience but it is tied to the place where it was produced.

Later, it becomes clear that Kloppenburg does in fact favor one of the three feminist approaches: feminist postmodernism. He states this in a section toward the end - which I will end with - that explains how multiple systems of producing knowledge can coexist.

"Feminist postmodernism suggests that the transition to a successor science is a mistaken project. Multiple and separate realities do exist and to suggest that a universal epistemological stance is possible and desirable - however feminist, holist, or oganicist it might be - is simply to replace one hegemony with another (Haraway 1986). While difference must be recognized and valued, productive interactions between ways of knowing can be established through partial connection and "decentered knowledge seeking" (Harding 1986:55). Farmers know something that agricultural scientists do not know and cannot completely know; and vice versa. Articulations between these different ways of knowing need to be established not in order to combine the knowledges, and not to translate the knowledges, but to permit mutually beneficial dialogue. The problem is not one of choosing between scientific knowledge or local knowledge, but of creating conditions in which these separate realities can inform each other." (p. 540).

Monday, February 12, 2018

Bell. 2004. Farming For Us All.

In Farming For Us All, Bell asserts, "An approach to productive farming that encourages greater stewardship of the environment's productive potential... is technically possible, say the advocates of sustainable agriculture. The real question is how it can be socially possible" (p. 10).

That is the research question of this book. Or, put more simply, "So why don't more farmers change?" (p. 12). After dismissing the suggestion that farmers simply don't like to change (p. 12-13), he notes that some believe it's "the structure of agriculture" - "the technology, market forces, and government regulations" that prevent change. Furthermore, he describes a sort of survival of the fittest: those who are still farming are the ones for whom the current structure of agriculture works, and the way they farm works with it. Given that, why would the change and do something different? (p. 13 and a footnote referencing Blank 1998, Hart 1991, and Tweeten 2003)

Bell believes this is not true for two reasons. First, because the situation for those who still farm is precarious, so it's hard to say that the current structure is really working for them. Second, farming practices are so similar from one farm to the next that it's hard to make the case that only the most efficient remain, unless you mean they are the most efficient in getting subsidies. In a footnote, he notes that he's not calling any farmer inefficient. Rather, their practices are so homogenous that it's hard to pick out one as being more efficient than the others (p. 13).

Bell sums up the message of the first part of the book: "While it is true that the current structure of agriculture encourages farmers to farm the subsidies and not the land, many if not most Iowa farmers (and their communities, their environment, and their families) find themselves poorly served by this encouragement" (p. 14).

Then Bell comes to his point, which is worth quoting in full because it's a good one:

"This phenomenology of farming - this taking for granted of what works, even when you think it might not - is a matter of more than material and temporal investments, though. It is equally a matter of identity, of the investment of the self as a man, as a woman, as a farmer. What you know is who you are. The stocks of knowledge we each old within are stocks of self as well" (p. 14).

He provides more explanation on how knowledge translates to identity, and in a footnote he cites Bentley, Rodriguez, and Gonzalez (1994), Chambers (1994), Collinson (2000), Hassanein (1999), Hassanein and Kloppenburg (1995), and Kloppenburg (1991).

Bell writes: "We learn from, and with, others, and gain a sense of social connection thereby. Knowledge is cultivated within culture and culture's lines of difference and identity - what I will be terming the cultivation of knowledge" (p. 15). A little later he writes, "knowledge is a social relation" (p 15).

Then he relates it to why more farmers do not adopt sustainable methods: "To give up a cultivation of knowledge, to give up a field of knowing and relating, is to give up both a field of self and its social affiliations and a field of trust in the secure workings of the world" (p. 15).

Bell connects knowledge to power, invoking Foucault. One might also connect this idea to Skogen, Mauz, and Krange (2008) in which the authors contrast the narratives of the more powerful pro-wolf contingent and the less powerful anti-wolf one, pointing out that the narratives reflect differential power relations. Here they are not discussing the knowledge itself but the status of the narratives of each side, in which the more powerful side's narrative is seen as scientific fact and official truth, whereas the less powerful side's narrative is seen as rumors.

Back to Bell, he describes a number of farmers who experience "phenomenological rupture" in which both one's identity and one's cultivation of knowledge change at the same time, and do so quickly (p. 16).

In the last part of the book, Bell describes how changing your farming practices means changing your social relations. As he goes on to define what he means, he makes it clear that he does not simply mean that switching to sustainable agriculture switches the people you spend time with ("an alternative set of social relations, of friends and associates with whom one identifies"). He also specifies that it brings with it a different "social practice of agriculture" (emphasis in original, p. 17). That is, for at least the particular group of farmers he was studying in Iowa, "the relations of knowledge... have a different feel to them, a different way of experiencing others and of experiencing one's own self" (p. 17).

It sounds like he is saying that conventional agriculture is what the IAASTD report calls "locally black box." That is, knowledge travels from top down, with experts producing knowledge and disseminating it as a universal truth. Another way to produce knowledge is by one's self. Bell calls both of these methods "monologic." But the knowledge of the sustainable farmers who are the subject of his book is produced jointly, with one another, in a dialogue.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Collins, Jane. Threads: Gender, Labor, and Power in the Global Apparel Industry

Collins, Jane. 2003. Threads: Gender, Labor, and Power in the Global Apparel Industry. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Collins uses a case study ethnography method to perform a commodity chain analysis in the global apparel industry. In it, she examines four firms: Tultex, Confitek, Burlmex, and Liz Claiborne.

Tultex and Liz Claiborne are two very different companies. Tultex mass produced sweatshirts and you've probably never heard of them. It actually produced the sweatshirts in its factories in Virginia, for decades, until it went out of business shortly after Collins performed her research there. Liz Claiborne designs and markets branded fashion apparel but it makes nothing; subcontractors produce the garments. Unlike the nearly identical sweatshirts Tultex workers made every day, Liz Claiborne sells many different styles with great variation.

Some theorists believed that jobs performing simpler work like producing Tultex sweatshirts would leave the U.S. for the Global South but the more complex work of producing apparel for Liz Claiborne would stay in the U.S. due to the level of skill required for the job. In fact, that is not the case. Liz Claiborne was a pioneer of offshoring production in the industry.

The other two firms are both in Aguascalientes, Mexico. One produced apparel for Tultex; the other for Liz Claiborne. The production processes in the two were remarkably similar. Both used a 'progressive bundle' system and paid piece-rate for the number of bundles a worker produced. The major difference is that Burlmex, which produced for Liz Claiborne, used a statistical quality control method. Using statistical quality control, a number of measurements and assessments are made of each worker's work. The measurements are graphed and tracked, and workers must stay within a certain range. This might be a quantitative measurement, like the depth of a seam, or a qualitative one. Instead of hiring more experienced or higher skilled workers, this company hires low skilled workers and controls them more tightly.

Both firms take a low road strategy of hiring unskilled workers, paying them little, offering them few benefits, and working them hard. The workers under statistical quality control are particularly stressed. Turnover is frequent and expected, if not built in. They recruit from a large geographic area, up to two hours from the factories. This gives them a larger pool to hire from to deal with turnover, but also means that some workers have an extra four hours of travel time added to each workday and that increases the stress. Additionally, the companies seek a docile labor force to put up with the stressful conditions and low pay, and they hire mostly women. The jobs given to men (operating machines) have higher pay.

Another theme in the book is that although globalization seems placeless, nowhere and everywhere, we can see examples of it in real places, affecting real people and communities. Terms like "offshoring" and "outsourcing" sound like nameless, faceless concepts, but Collins describes real factories that hired real workers in two cities. When a company selects a location for a factory, it must work with local laws, politics, norms, language, and other facets of that particular place. Collins examines how these companies adapt to each place in their workplace, their relationship with the community, and in terms of social reproduction. In terms of the community, she mentions how they work with the legal and political systems, whether they pollute, whether they invest in the communities, whether they offer daycare, whether they house workers or provide them transportation to work, etc. They are also interfacing with the local labor market. In this case, she mentions Tultex's paternalism in Virginia (until the workers unionized), comparing it to the subcontracted workers in Mexico who had no immediate relations with the U.S. firms employing them. The two parties (the workers and the U.S. companies) were connected by a general manager who ran the Mexican firm and dealt with both the U.S. company and the Mexican workers. The general manager was socially distant from the workers despite living in the same country. It was only relatively minor supervisors who had family and friends and other outside relationships with those they supervised. (This was not so for Tultex in its town in Virginia.) Collins says that by outsourcing to Mexico, the U.S. companies deterritorialize the social relations of work.

The nature of subcontracting makes the bargaining position of workers' worse. Contractors bid for jobs, trying to give the lowest price in order to win the contract. This drives down wages. But the low wages workers can get when the contractor wins a contract are better than the no wages they would get at all if their employer increased their wages and but got no contracts because it could not offer the best price.

The third area is social reproduction. Do employers pay a living wage so that workers can raise families and educate their children? In the case of the two Mexican firms in this book, they do not. Employers use their workers' gender against them, claiming that because they are women, their income is supplemental, so they do not need to earn enough to raise a family on. Of course this is ridiculous, as many women do not have a husband who earns more than they do, or any husband at all. Collins then speculates that the high turnover rate is desirable to firms because workers do not stick around long enough to organize and demand higher wages or better conditions.