The Sociology of Agriculture in Transition: The Political Economy of Agriculture after Biotechnology

  • Gabriela Pechlaner
Keywords: agriculture, political economy, biotechnology


ABSTRACT Due to its particularities as a nature-based process, agriculture’s ‘exceptionalism’ to capitalist industrialization has garnered much debate. One of the more productive consequences of this debate has been the development of conceptual tools that account for its distinction from typical capital accumulation patterns, such as Goodman, Sorj and Wilkinson’s (1987) classic concepts of “appropriationism” and “substitutionism.” The advent of agricultural biotechnology is now testing the limits of even these more refined conceptualizations, however, as the technology’s associated proprietary framework is reorganizing many traditional agricultural practices. Drawing on empirical examples of biotechnology-induced change—e.g. restrictions on seed saving, grower contracts, and patent infringement lawsuits—this paper argues that there is a need for a new concept in political economy of agriculture theory, which I term “expropriationism.” This concept identifies several aspects of an agricultural reorganization premised on legal means to enhance capital accumulation and on separating corporate ownership from liability.