Agricultural Geography and the Political Economy Approach: A Review
In this paper, we review recent developments in political economy approaches to agricultural geography. During the last decade, the main areas of debate have shifted from materialist concerns about uneven development, transformation of the family farm, and the role of the state to the related questions of consumption and social nature. We emphasize the common challenges faced by economic geographers addressing the embeddedness of economic relations in social, political, and cultural practices, including the need for theoretical approaches which examine the differential constitution of "structural" processes, their articulation in localities, and the role of actors. To illustrate, we recount recent changes in British farming that demonstrate the continuous repositioning of agriculture within restructured rural spaces and an increasingly integrated, corporate agro-food chain. From these changes new themes emerge. These include those of nature, specifically relations between "natural" and "social" processes, contested meanings of the natural world, and the environmental regulation of agriculture, and the growing need to address aspects of consumption, ranging from food safety to the delivery of amenity, landscape, and ecological "improvements."