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Roll-out neoliberalism and hybrid practices of regulation in Australian agri-environmental governance
journal contributionposted on 06.12.2017, 00:00 by Stewart LockieStewart Lockie, V Higgins
In the last 15 years, agri-environmental programmes in Australia have been underpinned by a neoliberal regime of governing which seeks to foster participation and ‘bottom-up’ change at the regional level at the same time as encouraging farmers to become entrepreneurial and improve their productivity and environmental performance without government interference. However, while experiencing a degree of success in terms of farmer involvement, considerable tensions are evident in such programmes. Drawing on an ‘analytics of governmentality’, this paper argues that while current agri-environmental programmes enable authorities to combine often competing and contradictory imperatives under the rubric of single political problems—what has been termed hybrid forms of governing — it also contributes to the continuing failure of these programmes to achieve their desired effects. As a consequence, neoliberal forms of governing tend to be characterised by experimentation with a range of governmental technologies in order to make programmes workable in practice. We explore two different types of technologies—standards schemes and direct government regulation — that have emerged in recent years, and how these have sought to address the limitations evident in ‘participatory’ programmes. The paper concludes by arguing that while these initiatives seek to encourage farmer compliance in seemingly divergent ways, their capacity to be workable, and have broader effects, in practice will depend upon their capacity to manage the competing imperatives of environmental degradation, capital accumulation and private property rights.