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Ambivalent solidarities: Food reconfigurations in Croatia and Italy, Anthropology Today



The authors compare the solidarity practices of farmers and food activists in Croatia and Italy in order to highlight the unintended consequences of mutual support initiatives and how these may reinforce disengagement from governance. Two ethnographic case studies from Istria (Croatia) and Lombardy (northern Italy) show self‐reliant ways of organizing mutual support networks among, respectively, Istrian winemakers and Lombard Solidarity Purchase Groups. They both challenge the top‐down regulatory governance of food systems, with the former organizing forms of economic and logistic mutual support to bypass strictures and faults of the Croatian fiscal and agricultural aid system and the latter self‐certifying organic crops to avoid the costs and arbitrariness of bureaucratic procedures for organic certification. Both highlight the discourse and practice of morality in food procurement and the ambivalence of the concept and practice of ‘solidarity’.
Robin Smith is a political
economy fellow of the
Independent Social Research
Foundation (ISRF) at the
Oxford School of Global
and Area Studies, University
of Oxford. She was a post-
doctoral researcher at the
University of Leiden on the
ERC-funded project ‘Food
citizens? Collective food
procurement in European
cities’, 2017-19. Her email
address is: robin.smith@area.
Cristina Grasseni is
Professor of Anthropology
at the University of Leiden,
the Netherlands, and the
principal investigator of the
ERC-funded project ‘Food
citizens? Collective food
procurement in European
cities: Solidarity and
diversity, skills and scale’
( Her
email address is: c.grasseni@
Across rural and urban settings, farmers and food activ-
ists are confronting the fiscally disabled governments of
Italy and Croatia in moral terms (cf. Forno 2015; Horvat
& Štiks 2015). Young Istrian winemakers in Croatia and
urban food activists and rural smallholders in northern
Italy, address the meaning and practice of ‘solidarity’
in these different but cognate contexts, where rampant
neo-liberal governance transcends the post-socialist
divide. Two juxtaposed ethnographic vignettes unravel
the unintended consequences for food governance and
networks of mutual support, respectively. Both groups
engage in unique forms of ‘solidarity’ (Simonic 2019),
and our cross-cultural comparison demonstrates how such
‘solidarity’ may lead to similar forms of inward-turning
towards self-reliance.
Our ethnographic examples demonstrate how con-
sumers and producers engage in solidarity networks to
provide for the needs they feel their governments fail to
adequately address. Production favours are relied upon by
Istrian winemakers to support each other during economic
crisis and in an institutional environment that favours
some businesses over others in the allocation of subsi-
dies and other financial support regimes. In the case of
Italian ‘GAS’ (Gruppi di Acquisto Solidale, or Solidarity
Purchase Groups), activists propose to form a ‘solidarity
economy network’ with trusted producers, in order to pro-
tect smallholders from the high costs and the perceived
arbitrariness of audit-based organic certification. Together,
we analyze how an increased reliance among grass-roots
socio-economic actors fuels a disengagement from par-
ticipation in agri-food market governance institutions and
regulatory regimes altogether. We do so by focusing on the
politics of advice in ‘co-production’ relationships between
solidarity economy activists and smallholders in Italy and
on the intensified use of mutual support networks in pro-
duction between Istrian winemakers as necessitated by
political and economic pressures.
Solidarity may be understood not only as a crisis-
induced collective practice to overcome hardship, but as
a conscious strategy to contest mainstream economic and
political institutions. For example, Ethan Miller of the
Community Economies Collective (inspired by feminist
geographers Gibson-Graham 2006) defines the solidarity
economy as a virtuous circle of goods and services that are
produced and exchanged outside ‘capitalocentric’ logics
and which foster instead, ‘commoning’ and cooperation
(Miller 2009). In recent anthropological scholarship, the
political ambivalence of self- and mutual help has been
exposed as lying at the heart of neo-liberalism (Hébert &
Mincyte 2014; Mole 2010; Muelebach 2012; Rakopoulos
2018). Our observations about solidarity practices in key
urban-rural relations shed light on the ongoing reconfigu-
ration of solidarity and self-reliance. In a time of austerity
and neo-liberalization, rural livelihoods are shaped by
urban agendas no longer in the name of ‘development’
and ‘improvement’, but rather competition and efficiency,
alongside solidarity and self-help.
Our vignettes illustrate how in Istria, informal networks
of solidarity amongst farmers cross business and social
worlds as a result of poorly functioning local governance
institutions, highlighting the government’s profound lack
of interest in or ability to create a business environment
that facilitates entrepreneurialism in this new market
economy. In the Italian case, food activists endeavour to
exercise solidarity with farmers, but risk preaching to the
converted or unintentionally favouring institutionalized
entrepreneurs such as social cooperatives.
Making ends meet in precarious times
Relying on social networks to facilitate everyday economic
life is nothing new in Croatia, having been a daily neces-
sity in Yugoslavia. Today, such practices are motivated by
new conditions, while trust in the ability of formal insti-
tutions to resolve problems is low (Kornai 2003). Rather
Ambivalent solidarities
Food governance recongurations in Croatia and Italy
Fig. 1. Harvest, Buje, Istria,
than characterizing relations between state and society,
self-reliance is a form of Istrian solidarity played out at
a community level. Regional self-reliance was a feature
of Istrian Yugoslavia thanks to Tito’s pragmatic approach
to minorities across the Yugoslav Federation which gave
Istria great autonomy, not to mention the self-management
ideology that Istrians now cite as evidence of how they
excelled at local economic governance, both as a territory
and community. Today, this marked distance between state
and society is a function of an entirely different political-
economic paradigm: the state’s financial capacity to sup-
port the business sector’s incorporation into European
Union (EU) market and policy regimes, and its loyalty
to its citizenry, are questioned in everyday conversations
about how to make ends meet.
The neo-liberalization of industries would ostensibly
devolve regulation to market actors, but here, this has
economically and politically strengthened large corpora-
tions which have the capacity and connections to adapt
to markets and EU policies. Smaller market actors are
left without resources, vulnerable to market flux and the
predatorial practices of these larger corporations. The
result is increasing precarity within the small business
sector. Meanwhile, the government’s financial inability to
support rural entrepreneurs, the bureaucratic complexity
of EU programmes and national corruption scandals leave
locals with little incentive to engage with formal institu-
tions and increase local ambivalence towards government-
related initiatives, however supportive they may claim to
be, making local solidarity more valuable. However, dis-
engaging from participating in governance institutions
like farmers’ associations restricts Istrian farmers from
accessing government subsidies or support for collective
projects that advance farmers’ interests.
Since Smith’s first visit in 2005 and through doctoral
fieldwork from 2012-2014, it has become increasingly
apparent that the professionalization of winemaking
has rapidly raised the production costs for small-scale
family wineries, from agricultural land to cellar technol-
ogies. The cost of entry for young people continuing the
Istrian winemaking tradition is high. Meanwhile, their
competitors – wineries established in the 1990s which
have been able to incrementally invest in new technolo-
gies and vineyards for the past two decades – have the
professional capacity, knowledge and networks to apply
for government and EU subsidies to further reinforce
their leading market position. The young, so-called
second-generation winemakers are thus paradoxically
more eager to engage in association-like institutions
that echo socialist-era farmers’ organizations than their
older compatriots who remember Yugoslav self-manage-
ment (and early collective farming efforts) in practice.
These younger winemakers demonstrate how they may
resourcefully engage with social networks to provide for
daily needs that the state is simply unable or unwilling to
address, e.g. through subsidies targeting young entrepre-
neurs in farming, or rehabilitating inefficient or defective
institutions. The rising debt amongst farmers compounds
such an inward focus, as they intensify helping relation-
ships to become self-reliant.
This vignette unpacks how a group of young Istrian win-
emakers reacts to systemic institutional problems through
coordinating production in a way that mimics past forms
of farmers’ organization, but is reflective of contemporary
governance shortcomings. Farmers’ associations were
established by Croatian municipalities to bureaucratically
connect state and society so as to distribute and keep track
of government funding for agricultural development initia-
tives and subsidies for seedlings and replanting. However,
poor oversight led to the misallocation of funds to non-
farmers, who acquired farmland and quickly rezoned it for
lucrative real estate projects. As association directors were
volunteers rather than government employees, enforcing
payment by such debtor ‘members’ was impossible. This
left municipality associations with blocked accounts
and large debts to the state, stymying farmers’ efforts to
grow into effective professional groups with autonomous
In one such case in Istria, rather than pursuing legal
action, a group of five second-generation winemakers,
who had become friends through their municipality’s asso-
ciation, left the association altogether. They disengaged,
like other farmers in the area, in favour of devolving wine
production and promotion to their self-organized group.
Reluctant to risk formally establishing an association,
despite its financial benefits, Ivan, Marko, Milo, Victor
and Gino began informally coordinating some aspects of
vineyard cultivation and winemaking. The costs of equip-
ment for the wine quality they each need to produce to
be locally competitive are prohibitively high. Thus, they
collectively use Ivan’s expensive grape press, coordi-
nate the harvesting of one another’s vineyards, and use
one another’s tractors and combined family labour. They
rotate harvesting on their vineyards and process grapes in
batches. The pressed juice is pumped into cooling tanks in
Ivan’s cellar and later into 1,000-litre plastic box tanks in
Marko’s van for delivery to their respective cellars. They
work day and night during harvest time, coordinating with
one another so that grapes are not left in the sun. This way,
everyone benefits from high-quality juice extracted without
having to each invest over €15,000 for their own presses.
In spring, Marko drives Gino’s small bottle-filling unit
and Ivan’s corking machine between their cellars for quick
bottling in small quantities, again avoiding each person
having to buy seasonal equipment. They share costly
tractor mounts, and sometimes plough one another’s adja-
cent fields to save time. Milo has a degree in agronomy
and advises on pesticide use; Victor has one in oenology,
so advises on cellar practices and Ivan one in mechan-
ical engineering, so he fixes broken tractors and other
All are under 30 years old and have never experienced
production in a socialist collective, or zadruga, only
hearing stories from family members about how such
institutions took root in early post-war Yugoslavia. Marko,
reflecting on the group’s value, explained in his cellar that
zadruga is a word that gets in your blood and under your
skin. To me, it means “društvena zajednica”, or “za zajed-
nicu” – like “za prijatelje”’. In other words, Marko took
this noun and broke it up into the two words za (for) and
drug (a less common word for friend) to make new, but
related meanings of, respectively, ‘social community’, ‘for
the community’, or ‘for friends’. Indeed, early Yugoslav
zadruga failed and were abandoned in favour of reforms
that led to limited (by law, but in practice extensive) pri-
vate farming and the self-management industrial organiza-
tion ideology that ultimately characterized the rest of the
Yugoslav era.
Marko’s interpretation of the word zadruga, although
based on an inaccurate translation, gave it a positive
meaning that described the impetus behind working
together with his friends and also helped him to concep-
tualize how his family had organized winemaking and
farming in Yugoslavia, creating a continuity of tradition
in his winemaking narrative. In interesting juxtaposition,
Marko’s group of friends simultaneously engage with EU
wine regimes like terroir, based on the very different his-
tory of French wine associations where families collabo-
rated with one another to create mini-monopolies in order
to establish a branded identity for villages and regions,
protect against fraudulent wines and encourage market
stability for their own wines.
Having watched how established winemakers are ben-
efiting from EU opportunities, particularly certifications
that recognize the quality or names of grapes from spe-
cific microzones, Marko’s group has begun to appreciate
the unique history of their vineyards. Their vineyards are
located in the microzone Saint Cosma, named after the
chapel now a few kilometres away. In researching Saint
Cosma’s history, they learned that in the 1960s, man-
agers of the then socialist agricultural firm, PIK Umag,
destroyed the chapel to plant the vineyards, moving the
ruins. Retracing their microzone’s history by consulting
residents and archives, they determined the chapel’s orig-
inal location and plan to mark it with a stone shrine. They
know from experience that Saint Cosma vineyards pro-
duce high-quality grapes, so they use as much of them as
possible for their bottled wine, while selling the rest to
other winemakers due to cellar space constraints, as con-
struction conforming to EU regulations is prohibitively
expensive. However, they have learned through conversa-
tions with former PIK employees that Saint Cosma grapes
were used to make PIK Umag’s flagship wine, The Tears
of Santa Lucia, which has been later confirmed through
Smith’s interviews with PIK oenologists.
Santa Lucia are the nearby hills surrounding the town of
Buje. Former PIK cellar managers explain that ‘only PIK’s
best grapes were used for this wine’, and that contrary to
popular belief, ‘not only grapes from Buje were used’. The
wine was exported throughout Yugoslavia under its Italian
name, Lacrima di Santa Lucia. Although made by a state
winery, people recall that its name was unproblematic – a
nod to the multicultural inclusiveness of Tito’s Yugoslavia,
they say. It was known throughout Yugoslavia as the best
Istrian wine. Today, tourists from former Yugoslav repub-
lics visit Istria asking for Lacrima di Santa Lucia, although
PIK ceased production nearly two decades ago.
The young winemakers’ research has inspired an
interest in establishing an EU-recognized Grand Cru for
Saint Cosma. The idea is that those buying Saint Cosma
grapes, some of whom own vineyards on the Santa Lucia
hills and use Santa Lucia imagery on their labels, would
then acknowledge Saint Cosma on their labels, promoting
consumer knowledge of the microzone. These other wine-
makers are at once their clients, competitors and friends.
Although establishing a Grand Cru is complex, the group
of winemakers has begun incorporating this history into
their marketing, linking their vineyards to the region’s
illustrious winemaking history and drawing on nostalgia
for its healthy farming sector. Simultaneously, they have
also challenged this history by inserting themselves into a
story which was once the domain of Buje’s winemakers.
Their story demonstrates how winemakers can crea-
tively confront what has been called ‘brutal capitalism’
(Horvat & Štiks 2015) in the region and develop coopera-
tive projects, with unanticipated consequences. Through
devolving their institutional engagement from the munici-
pality’s association to friendship networks, they create
new avenues of business development, engage with EU
wine concepts and position themselves in local wine his-
tory narratives. Additionally, self-reliance through sharing
expensive equipment allows them to avoid bank loans oth-
erwise encouraged by the deregulation of a financial sector
that promotes an economic growth model based on debt,
something Western Europe has pushed in this region for
decades (Unkovski-Korica 2015), demonstrating the ideo-
logical motivations undergirding local processes.
Solidarity and proximity in alternative food
In Italy, a growing food activism movement synergizes with
cultural and political preferences for local foods. Despite
the intensive farming economy of northern Italy, solidarity
economy networks pledge to reconnect with marginalized
farmers, purposefully engaging in alternative procurement
in ways that the state and market are deemed unable or
unwilling to support: food activists pledge to care for pro-
ducers, nature and each other while sourcing their food col-
lectively from ‘proximity’ producers (Grasseni 2013). GAS
(Gruppi di Acquisto Solidale or Solidarity Purchase Groups)
do not self-produce, but rather seek out farmers in the name
of ‘co-production’ to build a collaborative relationship with
them that hopefully goes beyond a market transaction.
There are at least 450 GAS groups in Lombardy alone
and about 7,000 families involved (Forno et al. 2013).
GAS members convene periodically (usually once a
month) in community centres or other available spaces
(such as parish churches, sports clubs or private houses) to
share information about available producers, collect orders
and organize payments for bulk buying. Food providers
may be preferably, but not exclusively, certified organic.
Most contacts are gathered from local smallholders for
vegetables and fruit, but also from retailers or farming
cooperatives for meat, milk and cheese. When possible,
Fig. 2. Pressing grapes,
Brtonigla, Istria, 2012.
Fig. 3. The view from
Brtonigla towards Santa
Lucia vineyards under the
town Buje, Istria, 2013.
Fig. 4. Harvest, Momjan,
Istria, 2013.
Fig. 5. Reviewing the fields
of a ‘participatory guarantee’
farm, Lombardy, Italy, July
Fig. 6. A courgette plant and
the inspecting party in the
Fig. 7. Reusing recuperated
building irons to support
plant growth.
This article was presented
at the 2018 LSE/ESRC
workshop ‘Precarious states:
Advice, governance, and care
in settings of austerity’ as part
of the project ‘Food citizens?
Collective food procurement
in European cities: Solidarity
and diversity, skills and
scale’, which received
funding from the European
Research Council (ERC)
under the EU Horizon 2020
research and innovation
programme (Grant agreement
Contessi, S. & C. Grasseni
2019. Co-producing
participatory guarantee
systems limits and
potentials. In P. Simonic
(ed.) Anthropological
perspectives on solidarity
and reciprocity, 45-56.
Ljubljana: Ljubljana
University Press.
Forno, F. 2015. Bringing
together scattered and
localized actors: Political
consumerism as a tool for
self-organizing anti-mafia
communities. International
Journal of Consumer
Studies 39: 535-543.
— et al. 2013. Dentro il
capitale delle relazioni. La
ricerca nazionale sui Gas
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per la Rete italiana di
Economia Solidale (ed.)
Un’economia nuova,
dai Gas alla zeta, 13-47.
Milano: Altreconomia.
special care is taken to buy locally, in an effort to keep the
ecological footprint low.
GAS advise smallholders to convert to organic farming,
offering support by paying higher prices and buying col-
lectively to offset the costs. They also aim to provide
advice and support against bureaucratic costs – typically
those incurred by organic certification through a third-
party audit. As one alternative, they offer participatory
guarantee systems; namely, a peer-certification system
supported by a solidarity economy network. For example,
a network of GAS started the participatory guarantee
scheme ‘For a Pedagogy of the Land’ in Lombardy in
2012, a grass-roots scheme for food quality certification
working in direct partnership with local farmers (Contessi
& Grasseni 2019).
The project was ideated to concretely take solidarity one
step further: if consumers are to practice solidarity with
producers, they should not request organic certification
as a prerequisite, knowing that this procedure is beset by
costs, added paperwork and sometimes allegations of cor-
ruption. (Allegations of experts turning a blind eye or just
minding their paperwork, or, on the other hand, of auditors
being awkward for the sake of making life difficult, were
reported by both producers and wholesale buyers.)
Participatory guarantee schemes are viewed as a tool to
combine the skill and expertise of food producers with the
different competencies of consumers, to weave each oth-
er’s knowledge and networks together. Key to this are the
field visits that consumers organize in collaboration with
farmers to gather data for the evaluation of a guarantee
committee. The idea is to self-certify that the standards
required by a European organic agriculture certification
(according to regulation CE 834/2007) can be upheld
without recourse to a third party, but rather through the
observation of trustworthy peers.
The principle of proximity is paramount to this approach,
and opposite to that of dispassionate certification. In fact,
the assumption is that a close look by an interested stake-
holder will deliver a more thorough result than a paid-
for audit by a third party (who might pocket a bribe for
certification; both farmers and consumers suggested that
third-party certification was a question of ‘just paying’ to
get ‘a piece of paper’). Interested stakeholders in this case
are not only the consumers, who are represented in the
inspection and in the guarantee committee, but also the
producers, who are being evaluated by a peer – someone
who knows well what kind of hurdles they face in their
daily work.
The Lombard project is ambitious, but takes place in a
fragile context, targeting a dwindling population of inde-
pendent smallholders. In fact, in 2015, it enrolled a total
of 16 farms. In the documentation provided by one of the
farms involved in one of the field visits, the signee of the
production protocol and of the declaration of intent was
not a farmer: he was the mandatary of a social cooperative
which, we were told during the visit, employs persons with
limited access to the labour market who come under the
care of the national health service. The latter sponsors the
farm work of the cooperative. If anything then, the signee
can be defined as a ‘neo-rural’; namely, a farmer neither
by inheritance nor by trade, who has come to the land via
multi-activity projects such as a social service cooperative
(as in this case) or an agro-tourism business, a didactic
farm or more radical projects of co-housing and home-
steading. While engaging with these social actors does not
per se mean that others are missing out, it is a symptom
of the fact that the ‘co-producer’ relationship is more
complex than one might anticipate. In this case, GAS co-
produce (and help peer-certify) an agricultural activity that
is only auxiliary to the core business of the social coop-
erative – namely, providing therapeutic and supervised
Gibson-Graham, J.K. 2006.
A postcapitalist politics.
Minneapolis, MN:
University of Minnesota
Grasseni, C. 2009.
Developing skill,
developing vision:
Practices of locality at the
foot of the Alps. Oxford:
Berghahn Books.
— 2013. Beyond alternative
food networks: Italy’s
Solidarity Purchase
Groups. London:
— 2017. The heritage arena:
Reinventing cheese in the
Italian Alps. New York:
Berghahn Books.
Hébert, K. & D. Mincyte
2014. Self-reliance beyond
neoliberalism: Rethinking
autonomy at the edges of
empire. Environment and
Planning Development
32(2): 206-222.
Horvat, S. & I. Štiks (eds)
2015. Welcome to the
desert of post-socialism:
Radical politics after
Yugoslavia. London:
Kornai, J. 2003. Honesty and
trust in the light of the
post-socialist transition:
Some ideas arising from
the ‘honesty and trust’
research at Collegium
Budapest. Voprosy
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economy: Key concepts
and issues. In E. Kawano
et al. (eds) Solidarity
economy I: Building
alternatives for people and
planet, 25-42. Amherst,
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subjects: Anticipating
neoliberalism in northern
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moral neoliberal: Welfare
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Chicago Press.
Rakopoulos, T. 2018.
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Confiscated mafia land in
Sicily. Oxford: Berghahn
Shore, C. & S. Wright 2015.
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Audit culture, rankings
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Unkovski-Korica, V. 2015.
development, and debt.
In Horvat & Štiks (2015
engagement with the land for assisted patients, at a fee to
the national health service. It thus does not serve the pur-
pose of keeping smallholders in business or of practising
‘solidarity’ with professional farmers.
However, GAS and neo-rural farms share an aspirational
discourse of environmental and social learning. Critical
of efficiency and productivity principles, the ethical con-
sumers that self-organize in solidarity economy networks
consider that food growing should be based on personal
knowledge rather than impersonal efficiency. Conversely,
in audits and HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical
Control Points) protocols for industrial food production,
anodyne representations of the production system tend to
visualize, formalize and parcel out the process, reducing
certification work to paperwork (Shore & Wright 2015).
Against the grain of the institutionalization of expertise,
the field visits have the objective of building a relationship
rather than box-ticking.
Grasseni witnessed one of the key moments of this pro-
cedure in July 2013, when after an extensive on-site visit
to a candidate farm, the visiting committee and the farmer
signed the visit’s report together. After being involved in a
year-long trial in the participatory guarantee scheme, the
farmer (and his child) welcomed the ‘inspectors’: namely,
an agronomist who was also a participant member in a
GAS (with her child), a peer-farmer and a peer-consumer
from another GAS. The children’s presence made this
less formal and more personal: it was the weekend, and
both the inspectors and the inspected had children in tow.
Perhaps they both assumed that it would be an educational
experience, possibly wishing to make the inspection more
sociable. The presence of the children was, however, a
reminder that the visit involved ‘volunteered time’ that
had been chipped away from family time. On the other
hand, it was time spent in order to make their families’
lives better, and to benefit other families. The paperwork
made the moment formal again, and certainly personal
the visit’s protocol bore the signature of both inspected
farmer and inspecting party.
Critical consumers wish to practise solidarity not
only with each other but with producers. The motivation
for producers should be both immaterial and material –
namely, the support received through networks of peers
and of consumers who are willing to share information and
pay higher prices than wholesale buyers. Such is the phi-
losophy of GAS, but also of Slow Food, the well-known
worldwide association of discerning consumers who pur-
port to do food politics by safeguarding ‘clean, just and
good’ food, and in particular, heritage foods, produced
by local smallholders. Significantly, GAS usually like to
distinguish themselves from Slow Food in that they see
themselves as more radically committed to facilitating
‘economies of proximity’, and not necessarily niche foods
that may be seen as elitist. Yet, it is telling how both types
of food activist – however different they are from each
other in terms of income availability and the degree of
radicalness of their stance – end up dealing with the same
interlocutors; namely, either ‘neo-rurals’ or self-selected
entrepreneurs who know how to navigate their ‘politics of
advice’ in order to gain added value for their agricultural
produce and practice.
Grasseni has defined the politics of agricultural advice
as the sum of formal and informal nudges towards forms
of ‘development’ that heavily influence the transitions cur-
rently affecting smallholders in Southern Europe (2009).
For example, in mountain communities of the Italian Alps,
agricultural trade union advisors and consultants from pro-
fessional associations have played a form of influential but
subtle local politics through networks of personal advice,
political alliances, preferential access to funding and
legal information or relationships of apprenticeship. The
politics of advice involves certain agricultural technicians,
consultants or advisors being more attentive than others,
as a result of which, certain farmers and breeders get into
the inner circle, get funding, ‘improve’ their herds, are
regularly pointed out to researchers and press as ‘exem-
plary practices’, become known and get support from
non-governmental organizations and eventually become
‘benchmarks’ for other practitioners.
Nowadays, the politics of advice comes to include
formal and informal relationships with food activist net-
works, because self-advancement for small-scale pro-
ducers is intrinsically connected to the role that local
entrepreneurs, ethical consumers and food activists such
as Slow Food can play. These competitively networked
rural entrepreneurs are best positioned to become hailed
as ‘saviours’ of heritage foods, quality and local traditions,
with regular mention on local, national and even interna-
tional media (Grasseni 2017).
Either way, producer-consumer relations may be influ-
enced by these power relations and take them further from
the institutional loci of normative decision-making. By
this, we mean that the degree of informality and discretion,
or simply serendipity, of crucial aspects of ‘co-produc-
tion’, such as the exchange of information, mutual support,
price negotiation and access to further market and profes-
sional networks, may be dependent on these power rela-
tions. Both Slow Food and GAS profess non-partisanship
in party politics, which is sometimes expressed by their
membership as being or perceiving themselves as acting
‘a-politically’, but both their ambitions and the practice
of their networking operations actually are political, in the
beneficial sense of aiming to change the world according
to stated objectives, and in the de facto sense of benefiting
those who first and more proximally can be reached by
these operations and objectives.
Our vignettes represent self-reliant ways of organizing
mutual support networks that challenge top-down regula-
tory governance of food systems. In Italy, GAS members
see this as an explicitly non-party political intervention
around the morality of food procurement. However, their
kind of solidarity does not always represent the interests
of the smallholders with whom they propose to be ‘co-
producing’. In this case, the ambivalence of solidarity is
revealed through the ‘politics of advice’ of largely middle-
class consumers who wish to consume ethically while
acting in solidarity with producers, the environment and
fellow consumers, but end up creating self-contained pro-
cedures that redouble existing legal requirements (as in the
case of organic self-certification) at great cost in terms of
time and effort for themselves and their farming partners.
The unintended consequence of this strategy is that their
best-suited partners are social cooperatives rather than
In Croatia, farmers rely on local networks of self-help
to make ends meet while engaging with EU regimes rather
than Croatian ones. Simultaneously, they increasingly dis-
engage from institutions like state-led associations which
should otherwise provide access to agricultural finance and
state support. Solidarity networks cross business and social
worlds, thanks to poorly functioning institutions and the
lack of a business environment that can enable entrepreneurs
to engage fully in the market. Such estrangement from the
governance of food systems has unintended consequences,
as disengagement from an already distant central state unin-
tentionally compounds rural economic precarity and poor
governance in Croatia. Likewise, in Italy, the convinced
‘a-political’ commitment of GAS members to reform eco-
nomic practice in self-reliant ways may encourage further
distrust in certification and regulation. l
... Despite the normative structure that gives credibility to the TPC, the TPC has some characteristics that limit smallholder farmer's certification, which become more evident in the Global South countries (FAO 2007). The main TPC's challenges are the high degree of standardization, administrative burden costs, and its emphasis on long distribution channels, often for export (Kaufmann and Vogl 2018;Smith and Grasseni 2020). ...
... Social control and solidarity are the main characteristics of this system (Smith and Grasseni 2020;Hirata et al. 2019). The organization and functionality of a PGS depend on how the government and organizations act, but in general, the basic principles of a PGS are social control, transparency, and shared liability (Smith and Grasseni 2020;Hirata et al. 2019). ...
... Social control and solidarity are the main characteristics of this system (Smith and Grasseni 2020;Hirata et al. 2019). The organization and functionality of a PGS depend on how the government and organizations act, but in general, the basic principles of a PGS are social control, transparency, and shared liability (Smith and Grasseni 2020;Hirata et al. 2019). ...
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In recent years, interest in the production and consumption of more sustainable food has been growing, resulting in the expansion of the global market for organic products. A product to be marketed as organic must go through a process that certifies its compliance with organic production rules, allowing the producers to use a seal that indicates that the product is organic. In this study, we carry out an analysis of scientific literature addressing organic certification. This is a descriptive study, which adopted bibliometric survey and integrative review as methodologies. We analyzed 164 articles from four internationally relevant databases using the software Iramuteq. Our findings indicate that organic certification is a new theme in the scientific literature, and the number of published papers on organic certification has grown significantly in the last decade. The results indicate that 71% of the analyzed articles related to organic certification to social and governance issues, while 29% related to technical production issues. Researchers based in the USA and Italy were the ones who published the most on the topic, and the analyzed articles are distributed through 85 different journals. We indicate that future research shall devote attention to the factors influencing the quantity and the theme of organic certification publications in different countries and continents.
Technical Report
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El caso estudiado ha puesto en práctica la certificación participativa durante más de diez años. Esta investigación buscó identificar si esta metodología ha contribuido a la territorialización de la agroecología. A partir de las entrevistas y las referencias bibliográficas, consideramos que la certificación participativa puede ser un instrumento de agroecologización, siendo una metodología que presenta capacidad de transversalidad, cruzando los cinco niveles de transición agroecológica propuestos por Gliessman.
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The concept of solidarity is ambiguous: it includes mechanisms of taxes and redistribution, charity, altruistic contributions and political support, social policies, concessions, grants, funds, food, clothes, social entrepreneurship, sponsorship, NGOS, etc. Communitarianism, equality and progress are their ideological pillars. Anthropology initially used the expertise of European sociology, political science, law and economics. Anthropologists have reported about internal balance, "social security" and cooperation in a number of non-European and preindustrial communities, which have been by default referred in the west as archaic. Anthropology never definitively adopted the concept of solidarity, at least not in the same manner as sociology and economics. Economic anthropology proposed the concept of reciprocity – a continuum of moral obligations along the processes of exchange. Reciprocity has ever since been loaded with meanings and usages. Reciprocity has become a general concept, specific moral obligations of primitive, preindustrial societies, which must be recognised and used in our time. For Marcel Mauss, reciprocity was a “third-way” political project as alternative to “two extremes”: individualist liberalism and collectivist communism. A hundred years after Malinowski and Mauss, and after several decades of neoliberalism, the anthropological third-way appeared in the form of human economy, related to alter-globalisation movement from Puerto Alegre. In France, the Mouvement anti-utilitariste dans les sciences sociales (M.A.U.S.S.) promotes a similar approach. Prior to that moral economy dealt with questions of social scope and ethics. From a point of view of economic anthropology, it is worth studying reciprocity and solidarity as forces of integration and group building. The volume brings together articles on different kinds of group building and bonding. The authors use various concepts to describe specific scopes of (economic) activities: human economy, moral economy, solidarity economy, even leisure commodity, or higher cause. Volume also seeks to contribute to recent discussions on socio-economic crisis by employing anthropological theory and ethnographic experience.
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“The tragedy of the commons” is a well-known phrase that has captured people’s imaginations for generations. Unfortunately these few but powerful words have been used to justify the enclosure and erasure of many well-functioning commons that benefit both people and the environment. Less well-known is Garrett Hardin’s qualification in 1998—some 30 years after he coined the original phrase—that "To judge from the critical literature, the weightiest mistake in my synthesizing paper was the omission of the modifying adjective 'unmanaged'" (682). What Hardin had presented in his original work was an open access and unmanaged pasture where there was no community that cared for the fields, took responsibility for them, organized herder access, negotiated grazing use and oversaw the distribution of benefit to community members (1968). It would be fair to say that Hardin’s pasture bears little resemblance to the commons that researchers such as Elinor Ostrom (e.g. 1990) have meticulously documented, commons that have rules or protocols for access and use, and are cared for by a community which takes responsibility for the commons and distributes the benefits. Today the planet faces a genuine tragedy of the unmanaged “commons.” For decades an open access and unmanaged resource has been treated with the same sort of disregard as Hardin’s pasture was treated. The planet’s life-supporting atmosphere has been spoiled by “‘help yourself’ or ‘feel free’ attitudes” (Hardin 1998: 683). We are now faced with the seemingly impossible task of transforming an open access and unmanaged planetary resource into a commons which is managed and cared for. With the cause and impacts of global warming now beyond debate, we are being pressed to take responsibility and to act in new ways. But how are we to do this? What type of politics is called for? In this chapter we explore how the process of commoning offers a politics for the Anthropocene. To reveal the political potential of commoning, however, we need to step outside of the ways that the commons have generally been understood. One predominant framing positions the commons in relation to capitalism, as Kevin St Martin writes: "It would seem that all of our stories of the commons revolve around a capitalist imaginary: capitalism’s origin in the enclosure of the commons, capitalism’s commodification of natural resources, capitalism’s expansion and its penetration of common property regimes globally, and capitalism’s most recent push to privatize remaining common property resources via neoliberal policies at a variety of scales" (2005: 63). We discuss this capitalocentric framing of the commons in the first section and raise concerns about how this framing limits the potential of commoning as a politics for the Anthropocene. In the second section we discuss a second predominant framing of commons as a “thing” that is associated with publically owned or open access property. Instead we argue that commons can be conceived of as a process—commoning—that is applicable to any form of property, whether private, or state-owned, or open access. We then turn to three examples from the past and the present that provide insights into ways of commoning the atmosphere. We reveal how a politics of commoning has been enacted through assemblages comprised of social movements, technological advances, institutional arrangements and non-human “others.” In the final section we discuss the implications of this understanding of politics and particularly what it means for understanding how transformation occurs.
An overview of concepts and strategic organizing practices of the emerging solidarity economy movement. FULL TEXT HERE:
They started in Palermo, with ordinary people who buy bread and fruit, take their cars to garages, go to dinner at restaurants… They asked them to be on the side of those who do not want to bow down to the oppression of the clan. At the beginning there were only a few hundred, then they became 3,500, and now 7,120 have signed a declaration of support for the cause. “Siding with traders is crucial in a city like Palermo; it makes them feel less alone. Those who do not pay extortion money to the mafia often get into a situation in which the damage outweighs the benefits,” say the students behind the anti-racket movement. And so the slogan “Change your shopping habits to fight the pizzo” came about. It refers to a positive choice to buy products from those traders who refuse to pay protection money. But this is done without pointing the finger of accusation at those who do pay: there is no blacklist. After collecting 7,000+ signatures they started to look for brave traders. The search went on for two years, day by day and zone by zone – but only in the centre of Palermo, not in the suburbs. Change in Palermo has to start in the centre: in the living rooms of Via Ruggiero Settimo, in the streets stretching from the Teatro Massimo to the start of Via Libertà… Attilio Bolzoni, Palermo, in La Repubblica, April 27, 2006 This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
Across scholarly and popular accounts, self-reliance is often interpreted as either the embodiment of individual entrepreneurialism, as celebrated by neoliberal designs, or the basis for communitarian localism, increasingly imagined as central to environmental and social sustainability. In both cases, self-reliance is framed as an antidote to the failures of larger state institutions or market economies. This paper offers a different framework for understanding self-reliance by linking insights drawn from agrarian studies to current debates on alternative economies. Through an examination of the social worlds of semisubsistence producers in peripheral zones in the Global North, we show how everyday forms of self-reliance are mutually constituted with states and markets, particularly through interactions with labor institutions and hybrid property regimes linking individual and collective interests. We draw on empirical data from two ethnographic case studies connected by a shared colonial history and continuing local mythologies of frontier self-sufficiency: salmon fisheries in rural Alaska in the US, and agrofood economies in socialist and postsocialist Lithuania. In each site we find that although local expressions of self-reliance diverge in critical respects from neoliberal visions, these forms of everyday autonomy are nevertheless enlisted to promote market liberalization, ultimately threatening the very conditions that have long sustained semisubsistence producers' self-reliance in the first place.