Surviving global change? Agricultural Interest Groups in Comparative Perspective: Darren Halpin (Ed.) Ashgate, Aldershot, 2005, 296 pp., ISBN 0-7546-4204-6 (hbk)

Publikation: Beiträge in ZeitschriftenRezensionenForschung


While the contemporary debate on globalisation processes widely focuses on interest representation of international non-governmental organisations and the formation of international regimes, this book steps back to the national level of sectional interest groups. It reviews the current state of national agricultural interest groups under the conditions of globalisation and liberalisation trends, stressing the argument that sectional interest groups are still important players in national political systems.

In his introduction, Darren Halpin presents an overview of the state-of-the-art research about the fate of national industry associations in western developed countries under the paradigm of globalisation. Although the diagnosed research gap seems to be reasonable, the justification of why the case of agricultural interest representation is an especially good example to fill this gap is not convincing. In the same vein, the selection of countries, Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Ireland, Spain, United Kingdom and the US, is not plausible, because major European agrarian players like the Netherlands or Germany as well as upcoming agribusiness nations like Argentina, Brazil or India are missing. Thus, a more theoretically based approach, including a larger number of cases, would have formed three country groups: EU members, other important OECD states and threshold countries. Such a research outline would have led to a more specific country group picture on the decline or resilience thesis of national farmers' unions.

This volume brings together a group of country experts in agricultural policy who deal with the question of how agricultural interest groups shift from the traditional state-assisted towards a market-liberal paradigm. All authors deliver a sound depiction of the actual situation and particularities of the national industry under review. Despite the national differences in interest group constellations, the descriptive analysis provides some evidence for similar developments that appeared in all western democracies throughout the last 30 years.

First, all authors detect farm restructuring as a widespread phenomenon which leads to a decline in farm numbers simultaneously combined with an increase of farm sizes and a higher degree of specialisation in farming. This development causes some internal pressures on agrarian interest groups. Heterogeneity in terms of member structure and issues increases, because middle size farmers were adjusted out while specialised large farm enterprises and part-time farmers remain. This membership constellation results in a request for a broad and specific advisory service in all topics of farming methods, insurance and taxation as well as political lobbying for a huge range of issues on all political levels. Wyn Grant, Alan Greer and Christilla Roederer-Rynning, in particular, find that European agricultural interest groups have a hard time accumulating the necessary resources to meet all the expectations of their members.

Second, external pressure factors have evolved. Within the last ten years, the free trade WTO regime has become a powerful international institution which splits national agricultural interest groups in two clusters. While Christilla Roederer-Rynning points out that especially EU members like France try to keep up a protectionist market policy for agricultural products, Darren Halpin shows, on the contrary, that OECD states like Australia play an active role in pushing the liberalisation of farm product markets. Including some threshold countries in this analysis would have shown that the number of nation states which favour the liberalisation of farm product markets will soon outnumber the protectionists. Since the 1990s, additional external pressure is generated by environmental and animal welfare groups, which gained some significant influence on the government.

The editor does a remarkably good job in summarising these similarities but also the differences in a concluding chapter. This book definitely has comparative merit. Furthermore, Darrin Halpin exposes some reliable arguments for his resilience thesis, although this actual status seems to be in flux. Overall, the book provides an informative overview of the situation of national farmers' unions in a globalising era. It provides even those who are not familiar with agricultural politics a good insight into this policy field and allows some predictions for the future of national farmers' unions.
ZeitschriftWest European Politics
Seiten (von - bis)615-616
Anzahl der Seiten2
PublikationsstatusErschienen - 2006