Perspectives from the Asia-Pacific
Edited by Matthew Tonts and M. A.B. Siddique
Chapter 2: Australian Agriculture in the Global Economic Mosaic
Neil Argent INTRODUCTION By any objective measure, Australian agriculture has undergone substantial change since the early 1980s (see Pritchard and McManus 2000; Gray and Lawrence 2001). In some respects, it seems something of a paradox to consider the past and current position of Australian agriculture under the rubric of globalisation. First, globalisation is itself still a contested and contentious idea. For many theorists, the phenomenon is more readily associated with industry sectors such as ‘high-tech’ and more basic heavy industrial manufacturing, finance and property services – the sectors in which flexible specialisation and accumulation, new international divisions of labour, space–time compression or convergence would appear to have had the greatest impact in terms of employment and production change. By contrast, agriculture, with its relatively constant temporal rhythms and real spatial fixity, seems relatively lacking in dynamism. Although the development of the ‘new political economy of agriculture’ during the 1980s and the subsequent offshoot of agri-food restructuring studies have played major roles in correcting this misconception, doubts remain over the application of concepts borrowed from the post-Fordist or flexible specialisation literature to agrarian change (see Goodman and Watts 1994; Watts and Goodman 1997). Nevertheless, as Le Heron (1993) observes, the restructuring of the agri-food and fibre processing and farm input sectors of developed countries during the 1980s and 1990s cannot be understood in isolation from the reorganisation of capital markets, and financial and banking systems, together with the concomitant increase in merger and acquisition activity between corporate players. One of the...
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