Journal article

From Pillar to Post? In search of the post-productivist countryside in Australia

Sustainability Public administration Agriculture Farming Australia

According to a growing number of commentators, the agricultural sectors and rural areas of advanced Western nations are experiencing a transition from productivism to post-productivism. In Britain and Western Europe, where this putative transition is most evident, the salient features of the shift include: the gradual removal of farm-level subsidies and related stimulatory policies; the introduction of a range of agri-environmental programs aimed at reducing agricultural commodity surpluses and halting farm-related environmental degradation; and the development of a more socially and culturally heterogeneous rural population as counter-urbanisation has brought a new stratum of residents into rural areas. This paper explores this notion in the Australian context. In analysing a wide range of data and policy documents, the paper argues that while there is some evidence of a productivist regime operating in Australia from 1945 to the early 1980s, and some more recent incipient trends consistent with a transition to a post-productivist countryside, there is much stronger evidence that the Australian farm sector and rural landscapes are being shaped by the complex interactions between the 'productivist' ideals held by farmers and key policy makers alike, and the growing environmental regulation of farming. It is concluded that while the concept of 'post-productivism' is superficially appealing, it has little practical or conceptual application to Australian conditions. Indeed, the paper argues that 'post-productivism' is fundamentally misconceived, largely owing to its inherent binary narrative form and logic.

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