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.

* 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.

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