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Rapid change in agricultural policies : the BSE-crisis in Germany (2000-2001)

[working paper]

Lange, Hellmuth

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Further Details
Corporate Editor Universität Bremen, Forschungszentrum Nachhaltigkeit (artec)
Abstract "Today, 'governance' is regarded as the most effective tool to work on and to solve civil political conflicts between competing social claims (Grote/Mbikpi2001). This applies for the field of agricultural and rural problems, too (Berkes/Folke/Colding 1998; Lance/Gunderson/Holling 2001). Governance is considered to compensate the weaknesses of traditional forms of political-administrative interventions (state failure due to continuous functional differentiation and individualisation). On the other hand, governance mostly enables incremental changes only. Such a change usually proceeds slowly. But in view of the dramatic potential of non-sustainable practices and routines and there is a strong demand for a more substantial and rather rapid change. Agriculture represents in many respects a perfect example for this expectation. However, the more substantial and rapid the intended changes are being conceived the more they inevitably get in conflict with more or less firmly established power structures. Thus, the question arises: How do such hierarchies of power get moving? Or even better: How can rapid and substantial change in favour of more sustainable practices and orientations can be stimulated? Metaphorically speaking: Are there examples to be found where the focus was not primarily on modifying the distribution of a given cake but where the recipe of the cake is fixed anew? The political conflict regarding the reorientation of agricultural policy in Germany which came up in connection with the BSE scandal in the year 2000 may be seen as an example of this kind of change. In this case, the political power of an bb-industrial cluster which had been very stable over decades was shaken to its foundations within just a few weeks time. This process is being described within the scope of an analysis of beliefs, discourses and story-lines (Hajer 1996) of the relevant actors in politics and associations as well as in the press. The decisive point is seen in a rapid process of de-legitimation of the actor discourses having been dominant until then. On this basis existing discourse alliances can be dismantled and new alliances can be formed. The process of de-legitimation is mainly a result of two interrelated elements: The specific logic of more or less voluntarily chosen discourses (about “good agriculture” and the character of BSE) on the one hand and real incidents (identification of an infected cow with undoubtedly German origin) on the other hand. Finally, it will be discussed what are the limits of such processes of rapid dismantling of power positions and political concepts (Kingdon 2001)." (author's remark)
Keywords agricultural policy; governance; political governance; agriculture; political conflict; sustainability; discourse; power; illness; animal; orientation; dominance
Classification Special areas of Departmental Policy
Document language German
Publication Year 2004
City Bremen
Page/Pages 21 p.
Series artec-paper, 119
Licence Deposit Licence - No Redistribution, No Modifications
data provider This metadata entry was indexed by the Special Subject Collection Social Sciences, USB Cologne