From productivism to post-productivism … and back again? Exploring the (un)changed natural and mental landscapes of European agriculture



This paper has evolved out of a growing dissatisfaction with the relatively uncritical acceptance in contemporary debates that agriculture in advanced societies has moved from ‘productivism’ to ‘post-productivism’. A brief review of current conceptualizations of productivist and post-productivist agricultural regimes reveals inconsistencies in current understandings these dualistic terms. The problem has partly been that the conceptual literature on post-productivism has largely failed to take into account the wealth of actor-oriented and behaviourally grounded research. Productivist and post-productivist agricultural regimes have also been conceptualized from a UK-centric perspective that has largely failed to discuss whether the concept has wider applicability within Europe and beyond. The paper discusses the time-lag and spatial inconsistencies in the adoption of post-productivist action and thought, and emphasizes that different localities are positioned at different points in a temporal, spatial and conceptual transition from ‘pre-productivist’ to ‘post-productivist’ agricultural regimes. The notion of the ‘territorialization’ of productivist and post-productivist actor spaces highlights the wide-ranging diversity that exists within the productivist/post-productivist spectrum, and that productivist and post-productivist action and thought occurs in multidimensional coexistence leads one to question the implied directionality of the traditional productivist/post-productivist debate. It is suggested that the notion of a ‘multifunctional agricultural regime’ better encapsulates the diversity, non-linearity and spatial heterogeneity that can currently be observed in modern agriculture and rural society.