Get access

California's Proposition 2: Science, Ethics, and the Boundaries of Authority in Agriculture



Proposition 2 sought to transform the microstructure of agricultural production within the state of California. This paper examines the political debate surrounding the ballot initiative and its geographical implications. Proponents and opponents of the proposition utilized scientific and ethical principles to define their respective positions, differentiate legitimate voices from illegitimate voices, and designate which segments of the California population should have a role in determining the character of animal agriculture within the state. The generalities and specificities contained within these principles are shown to approximate different perceptions of the ideal scope of democracy. Amid these tailored principles, common sense also emerged during the election as a notion affecting the potential breadth of political inclusion in such decisions. In association with other ideas, the general character of common sense proved consequential for two reasons: it substantiated populism in politics while its embodied foundation fostered connections between humans and animals. Ultimately, however, common sense is shown to be a double-edged sword. While it appears to have played a role in the projected transformation of California agriculture, such change is not as revolutionary as some would suggest for it is grounded in the prevailing orthodoxies that characterize populism.