A-15/15 ‘Neo-productivist’ agriculture: Spatio-temporal versus structuralist perspectives

Critical commentators of agricultural/rural change in advanced economies have begun to refer to ‘neo-productivist’ pathways of change. However, conceptualizations of neo-productivism have so far largely failed to provide a robust analytical framework for understanding the propelling forces, processes and characteristics of complex modern agricultural pathways. This article analyses two key approaches used to conceptualize neo-productivism: an actor-oriented spatio-temporal perspective (the AOST approach) which focuses mainly on geographical and temporal-historical characteristics in the adoption of neo-productivist actor spaces, and structuralist interpretations which see neo-productivism predominantly as a response to macro-political regime change. There is an underlying assumption in both that productivist and non-productivist pathways of agricultural change can be identified in different guises and that the notion of neo-productivism can be situated in relation to productivist/non-productivist concepts. However, they differ in their temporal conceptualisations of agricultural change (i.e. neo-productivism as productivist resurgence versus productivist approaches adapted to match the new political realities of an era influenced by non-productivism), processes (i.e. non-productivist pathways forced by events ‘back’ towards productivist-dominated pathways versus neo-productivism as a shift from a state-led system of support responsible for driving stateproductivism, to market-based drivers enabled by the gradual withdrawal of the state), and spatial differentiation (i.e. complex geography of actor spaces in the adoption of neo-productivist pathways versus locked-in productivist pathways working alongside multifunctional agriculture). The article concludes with some critical thoughts about the utility of the term ‘neo-productivism’, but also argues that the term allows researchers to further nuance conceptualisations of the complex spatial, temporal and structural changes that characterise modern agriculture in any area of the globe. Journal of Rural Studies 38 (2015) 52-64

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