Beyond bifurcation: examining the conventions of organic agriculture in New Zealand.
Rosin, Chris; Campbell, Hugh
The last 10 years have witnessed numerous attempts to evaluate the merits of new theoretical approaches – ranging from Actor Network Theory to ‘post-structural’ Political Economy and inhabiting a ‘post-Political Economy’ theoretical space – to the explanation of global agricultural change. This article examines Convention Theory (CT) as one such alternative approach, assessing its potential in the context of ongoing change within commercial organic agriculture in New Zealand. More specifically, CT is used to expose the insufficiency of recent ideas of conventionalisation and bifurcation, both reflecting more traditional Political Economic approaches, as explanatory concepts for the emerging condition of the New Zealand organic sector. In this paper, the concept of worlds of justification as developed in CT is utilised to address the emerging complexity of organic production. While farmers supplying a more diversified domestic market can be distinguished from those supplying export markets, an exclusive focus on such distinctions ignores the influential role of extra-economic factors on the viability of organic production systems. Thus, in addition to what are classified as market and industrial worlds in CT, the paper addresses aspects of civic, green, domestic, inspired and renown worlds. Producers’ selections of organic certification organisations are used to demonstrate the interaction of these worlds in the development of the organic sector in New Zealand. The article concludes with the imperative to move ‘beyond bifurcation’ and acknowledge the greater complexity of negotiated outcomes that might be achieved from a CT perspective than from existing political economy-derived models like conventionalisation and bifurcation.
Rights Statement: 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Agri-food theory; Organic agriculture; Bifurcation; Conventionalisation; Convention theory; New Zealand
Research Type: Journal Article