Lawrence Busch

Michigan State University, Ист-Лансинг, Michigan, United States

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Publications (85)158.58 Total impact

  • Lawrence Busch
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    ABSTRACT: We live in an age defined in large part by various facets of neoliberalism. In particular, the market world has impinged on virtually every aspect of food and agriculture. Moreover, most nation-states and many international governance bodies incorporate aspects of neoliberal perspectives. Multi-stakeholder initiatives (MSIs), with their own standards, certifications, and accreditations are evidence of both the continuing hegemony of neoliberalism as well as various responses to it. Importantly, to date even attempts to limit neoliberal hegemony through MSIs have been largely within the parameters established by those same neoliberal agendas. However, neoliberalism is itself in crisis as a result of climate change, the continuing financial crisis, and rising food prices. The founding myths of neoliberalism are still widely held, having the effect of closing off alternative paths to the future. Yet, this need not be the case. Alternatives to the current MSIs that promote justice, democracy, and equality can still be constructed.
    No preview · Article · Sep 2014 · Agriculture and Human Values
  • Lawrence Busch
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    ABSTRACT: In his celebrated 1951 work, Social Choice and Individual Values, economist Kenneth Arrow asked how the values of individuals might be aggregated into a social choice. Today, we live in a world in which choice is celebrated as a virtually undiluted good. Indeed, in the agrifood sector in much of the world, there is considerable evidence that the range of choices has increased markedly in the last 30 years. In much of the world today, we can choose from a vast array of items in the local supermarket, as well as from a range of restaurants that differ on price, quality, and ethnic or regional specialties. Consumer choice is also seen as a means of promoting fair trade, animal welfare, geographically specific food and agricultural products such as wines and cheeses, and fair labor practices, as well as protecting the environment and biodiversity, among other things. In short, choice is seen as both “revealing preferences” of consumers as well as their ethical stances with respect to various issues facing the world today. But all this assumes that choices are individual. It not only accepts the methodological individualism common to mainstream economics and psychology as a research strategy, but assumes that it provides an adequate means of understanding and organizing the world. However, if we reject that individualism as both research strategy and social project, and grant that humans are social beings, then appropriate food choices are learned through a complex process of interaction. One might say that the Arrow points the other way: individual choices are and must be based on socially held, shared values. Governing this process requires rethinking and revisioning the future of agriculture and food.
    No preview · Article · May 2014 · Journal of Consumer Culture
  • Weston M. Eaton · Stephen P. Gasteyer · Lawrence Busch
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    ABSTRACT: Sociotechnical imaginaries are collectively imagined forms of social life reflected in the design and fulfillment of technological projects. While it is implied that there may be contention around sociotechnical imaginaries, the literature on how that contention is manifested is scant. We use a frame-analytic approach to demonstrate the potency of collective action frames for making sense of the national imaginaries underpinning siting proposals. As a case study, we use woody biomass bioenergy development in northern Michigan. After briefly outlining the multiple frames that are encompassed in the imaginary of bioenergy development, we focus on the “wood for energy” frame, employing the concept of “frame keys” to demonstrate how national imaginaries are interpreted differently by local and nonlocal actors involved in community sitings of proposed facilities. We find not only that frame keys are essential to how the national imaginary of bioenergy is interpreted, (re)produced, and responded to but also that framing processes are related to social movements that coalesce around competing collective memories of place.
    No preview · Article · Nov 2013 · Rural Sociology
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    ABSTRACT: Recent accounts of "the biological" emphasize its thoroughgoing transformation. Accounts of biomedicalization, biotechnology, biopower, biocapital, and bioeconomy tend to agree that twentieth- and twenty-first-century life sciences transform the object of biology, the biological. Amidst so much transformation, we explore attempts to stabilize the biological through standards. We ask: how do standards handle the biological in transformation? Based on ethnographic research, the article discusses three contemporary postgenomic standards that classify, construct, or identify biological forms: the Barcoding of Life Initiative, the BioBricks Assembly Standard, and the Proteomics Standards Initiative. We rely on recent critical analyses of standardization to suggest that any attempt to attribute a fixed property to the biological actually multiplies dependencies between values, materials, and human and nonhuman agents. We highlight ways in which these biological standards cross-validate life forms with forms of life such as publics, infrastructures, and forms of disciplinary compromise. Attempts to standardize the biological, we suggest, offer a good way to see how a life form is always also a form of life.
    No preview · Article · Aug 2013 · Science, Technology & Human Values
  • Lawrence Busch
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    ABSTRACT: As noted in the epigraph above, a century ago, Kenyon Butterfield, then President of Massachusetts Agricultural College, asked whether the goal of increased productivity was adequate to the ‘new epoch’. But Butterfield’s question was largely ignored. For much of the past 300 years, productivity has been the central, and usually unchallenged, goal of agricultural research. Standards and accompanying measures of many kinds were developed to define productivity. Like all standards those for productivity govern our behaviour, shape our institutions and actions, and allow us to measure ‘progress’. Yet, today we are faced with Butterfield’s question once again. Productivity has not been – and is not likely to be – replaced, but it has been tentatively supplemented by a tangled and sometimes contentious variety of goals often labelled as ‘sustainability’.
    No preview · Chapter · Jan 2013
  • Toby A. Ten Eyck · Lawrence Busch
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    ABSTRACT: Art critics straddle the boundaries between art worlds and the public. To legitimate and maintain this role, critics must be able to justify their standing as judges of the creation and display of art. This article draws on Boltanski’s and Thévenot’s work on the sorts of justifications which arise when joint action is interrupted. Specifically, we look at the justifications embedded in two seemingly disparate critiques – one from Clement Greenberg dating from the 1950s and another by Michael Kimmelman from the 2000s. An investigation of the justifications used within these critiques – separated by over five decades – reveals how boundaries between art and its public have been generated and maintained over the years.
    No preview · Article · May 2012 · Cultural Sociology
  • Allison Loconto · John V. Stone · Lawrence Busch
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    ABSTRACT: Standards are exemplary measures against which people and things are judged. They can be informal, resembling norms and habits; they can also be formal, resembling laws or written codes of conduct or embedded in material objects. Both formal and informal standards are involved in nearly every aspect of human life. However, we will use the term “standards” to refer exclusively to “formal standards” which are those that are primarily invoked in global governance. In order for formal standards to create and keep the ordering that is intended by their use, a number of elements employed: (i) processes for certifying compliance to the standards, (ii) processes for accrediting the certifiers who audit the standards, and (iii) relatively clear sanctions for violation of these standards. Generally referred to as “conformity assessment,” these processes traverse and integrate the public and private sectors domestically and internationally. As such, formal standards are part of a “tripartite standards regime” (TSR), which is a regime of governance that consists of standards-setting, accreditation, and certification (Loconto & Busch 2010). These three processes involved in constructing a TSR emerged pragmatically at different times and in different geographic spaces beginning in the late nineteenth century.
    No preview · Chapter · Feb 2012
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    Doris Fuchs · Agni Kalfagianni · Jennifer Clapp · Lawrence Busch

    Full-text · Article · Sep 2011 · Agriculture and Human Values
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    Lawrence Busch
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    ABSTRACT: In recent years, we have witnessed three parallel and intertwined trends: First, food retail and processing firms have embraced private standards, usually with some form of third party certification employed to verify adherence to those standards. Second, firms have increasingly aligned themselves with, as opposed to fighting off, environmental, fair trade, and other NGOs. Third, firms have embraced supply chain management as a strategy for increasing profits and market share. Together, these trends are part and parcel of the neoliberal blurring of the older liberal distinction between state and civil society. In this paper I ask what the implications of these changes are from the vantage point of the three major approaches to ethics: consequentialism, virtue theory, and rights theory. What are the consequences of these changes for food safety, for suppliers, for consumers? What virtues (e.g., trust, fairness) are these changes likely to embrace and what vices may accompany them? Whose rights will be furthered or curtailed by these changes? KeywordsGovernance–Retailing–Certification–Standards
    Preview · Article · Sep 2011 · Agriculture and Human Values
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    Lawrence Busch
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    ABSTRACT: Although long distance trade in food goes back at least as far as Columbus, the recent wave of food globalization is unprecedented in human history. But despite the existence of the Codex Alimentarius, the Food and Agriculture Organization, and the World Trade Organization, there is no central authority that governs the many facets of food. Instead, we have arrived at a food network that is governed by a plethora of public and private standards including those for productivity, food safety, food quality, packaging, and nutritional value. However, standards are both epistemological and ontological devices; they make the realities that they claim to describe. Moreover, once accepted they tend to become ‘second nature,’ often obscuring growing problems and conflicts, including (perhaps especially) those arising out of the very standards themselves. On the one hand, standards for productivity obscure the weak and rapidly eroding premises on which current productivity is based. On the other hand, standards for quality tend to rigidify production regimes. Both tend to inhibit innovations of the sort necessary for us to realize food security globally.
    Preview · Article · Jul 2011 · Journal of Experimental Botany
  • Lawrence Busch · Kyle Powys Whyte
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    ABSTRACT: As Paul B. Thompson suggests in his recent seminal paper, “‘There’s an App for That’: Technical Standards and Commodification by Technological Means,” technical standards restructure property (and other social) relations. He concludes with the claim that the development of technical standards of commodification can serve purposes with bad effects such as “the rise of the factory system and the deskilling of work” or progressive effects such as how “technical standards for animal welfare… discipline the unwanted consequences of market forces.” In this reply, we want to append several points to his argument and suggest that he rightly points out that standards can promote various goods; however, there are peculiar powers wielded by standardization processes that might profitably be unpacked more systematically than Thompson's article seems to suggest. First, the concealment of the technopolitics around standards is largely due to their peculiar ontological status as recipes for reality. Second, technical standards can and do commit violence against persons, but such violence is often suffered not in the formation of class consciousness, as Marx might have put it, but as a failure to conform to the laws of nature.
    No preview · Article · Jun 2011 · Philosophy & Technology
  • L Busch
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    ABSTRACT: Luc Boltanski and Laurent Thévenot tell us that we live in a plural world in which actions are justified in multiple ways. Moreover, Anne Marie Mol argues that things, certainly including animals, are always multiple, their very existence dependent on the particular practices in which they are implicated. Thus, animal welfare policies must be understood in light of both the ways in which animals are 'practiced' and the particular justifications provided for these practices. Such policies make claims based on the practices involved in animal-human interactions and are justified based on appeals to the scientific (industrial), civic, market, and domestic worlds, among others. Thus, animal welfare policies must necessarily involve compromises among both the multiple ways in which animals are 'practiced' and the multiple ways in which those policies may be justified.
    No preview · Article · Feb 2011 · Animal welfare (South Mimms, England)
  • Lawrence Busch
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    ABSTRACT: KeywordsFood Safety-Regulatory governance
    No preview · Article · Dec 2010 · Food Security
  • Jason Konefal · Lawrence Busch
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    ABSTRACT: Abstract Using the case of corn and soybean production, this article examines the development of a market of multitudes in agrifood systems. With the introduction of genetically modified varieties, corn and soy production have undergone significant standardisation. However, the market for non-genetically modified corn and soybeans has simultaneously proliferated. Thus, there are now multiple market streams for corn and soy that, we argue, has given rise to a new organisational model, namely supply chain management. Using data collected from a survey, interviews and web analyses we examine how supply chain management is being implemented in non-genetically modified corn and soybean production. Specifically, we examine the use of identity preservation programmes, standards, audits and testing, and the benefits and limitations of such an organisational model for different actors. In concluding, we argue that the shift towards a market of multitudes is creating opportunities for producers and consumers but also poses a number of ethical challenges.
    No preview · Article · Oct 2010 · Sociologia Ruralis
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    Lawrence Busch
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    ABSTRACT: The last half century has witnessed dramatic socio-technical changes in the agrifood sector, restructuring both city and countryside in radical ways. On the one hand, new genetic, genomic, transport and information technologies have become commonplace. On the other hand, new forms of intellectual property and new institutional structures have emerged. In particular, supply chain management and certification of suppliers have become commonplace activities among input suppliers and supermarket chains. At the same time various forms of resistance ranging from farmers' markets to organic production to fair trade have arisen. Why? Using the methods and insights of science studies, I argue that both agribusiness firms and their detractors have acted in response to the successful performances of neoliberalism in national and international settings. Hence, the current agrifood sector may be best understood as the product of continually evolving, and often conflict-ridden, negotiations between neoliberals, their supporters (who love it selectively) and their detractors. The moral of the story: fairy tales can come true, but they usually have surprise endings.
    Preview · Article · Sep 2010 · Sociologia Ruralis
  • Allison Loconto · Lawrence Busch
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    ABSTRACT: This paper explores the construction of what the authors term a ‘tripartite standards regime’ (TSR) by looking at the pragmatic emergence of standards development organizations (SDOs) and national accreditation bodies (NABs). The authors explain how, through their network of audit, the TSR is entangling intermediaries and processes into specific supply chains. Moreover, they argue that the emphasis placed on the role of ‘metrology’ is overstated in the literature. Rather, the concept of ‘standards’ better captures the more complex, underlying processes involved in the construction of the TSR. They present evidence gathered through a review of data collected from SDOs’ and NABs’ websites, official documents, international trade agreements, and the directories published by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the International Organization for Standardization. They argue that the TSR acts as a techno-economic network that is global in reach and serves a key coordinating role in facilitating international trade. As such they see the TSR as fundamental to the movement towards ‘governing at a distance’ that is part and parcel of the neoliberal shift from government to governance.
    No preview · Article · Aug 2010 · Review of International Political Economy
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    Lawrence Busch
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    ABSTRACT: The last several centuries have been marked first by a tendency toward the use of standards to standardize, and then by the use of standards to differentiate. Both have been built on the legal edifice of the state. More recently, in response to the rapid rise of neoliberalism, standardized differentiation has increased in scope and has become part of a larger Tripartite Standards Regime (TSR) consisting of standards, certifications, and accreditations. Over the last half century, the TSR has grown to cover nearly every aspect of social life. In many ways this new form of governance replaces and transmutes positive law, which is a product of the state, with its market equivalent. Yet, the TSR leaves much to be desired as a form of governance. The recent financial collapse should give us pause to ask whether the path we have constructed for ourselves can lead us to the desired destination. As Michel Callon (1998; Callon, Millo, and Muniesa 2007) and others (e.g., MacKenzie, Muniesa, and Siu 2007) have argued, economies are performed. Put differently, without people engaged in certain relatively well-defined and organized activities, economies simply do not exist. Moreover, from this perspective, economists not only study economies, measuring various aspects of their performance; through their theoretical perspectives, measurement devices, and policy initiatives, they propose and enact particular ways to perform the economy. Thus, there is a necessarily reflexive character to economics. The words and actions of economists tend themselves to be used to (re)shape the economy. Furthermore, just as a play may be performed in a way that is faithful to the script, may be performed well or badly, may be a brilliant production or a dismal failure, so may economic performances. Markets have been around since the beginnings of recorded history and perhaps before. People produced various things for their own use. Whatever was left over, despite quality, they attempted to sell in the market if a buyer were available. If not, they kept those things so that they might try to sell them again later.
    Preview · Article · Jan 2010
  • Lawrence Busch
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    ABSTRACT: Abstract The problem of order is central to all societies. Bacon, Hobbes and Smith each proposed to resolve the problem of order by investing moral authority in a “Leviathan” that would guarantee order: science, state and market, respectively. Later scholars adapted their works to other ends. But putting the Leviathans into practice had the unintended effect of relieving individuals of moral responsibility and creating wide-spread disorder. Widespread networks of democracy in all spheres of social life are proposed as an alternative solution to the problem of order, one that encourages the collective discovery of moral values.Such networks put moral responsibility neither on the shoulders of individuals where it becomes crushingly heavy, nor on society where it becomes unbearably light.
    No preview · Article · Oct 2009 · Rural Sociology
  • Keiko Tanaka · Lawrence Busch
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    ABSTRACT: Abstract Not all commodities are things, nor are all things available in society commodities. Then, what are commodities? Using the case of rapeseed and its products in China, this paper examines the role of grades and standards (G&S) in simultaneously determining the life of things as commodities and the position of humans as market participants. In the first section, we summarize our conceptual understandings of commodities. Next, the paper examines tests and trials to which rapeseed in China were subjected by the mid 1990s. We then discuss how G&S represent political processes among commodity chain actors for creating, legitimizing and maintaining the social relations between things and people. Lastly, we discuss our conclusion that the analysis of tests and trials helps us understand the process of commodification as simultaneous transformations of humans and things in a commodity chain while reorganizing linkages among these actors.
    No preview · Article · Oct 2009 · Rural Sociology
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    Lawrence Busch
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    ABSTRACT: Until recently, nearly all agricultural research was unified by a focus on increased production. Arguably, production subsidies in Europe and the US made that approach viable. But today, paradoxically, we are faced with both growing fragmentation and integration in agricultural research. Agricultural research is now seen as the solution to problems of global warming, rural development, environmental improvement, economic growth, sustainability, and even public health. We can discern the outlines of a new integration of food, pharmacy, diet, and health. But, at the same time, we can also see a gulf between molecular approaches to biology - genomics, proteomics, metabolomics, among others - and older fields such as systematics, and plant and animal breeding. This is paralleled by a shift from public standards focused largely on safety, to a proliferation of sometimes conflicting standards for sustainability, worker rights, fair trade, and organic, etc. Missing is any attempt to ask what kind of food and agriculture we want. We need to begin to answer this fundamentally ethical question if we are to ensure that investments in agricultural research yield improvements.
    Preview · Article · Jul 2009 · Nature Sciences Sociétés

Publication Stats

2k Citations
158.58 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 1994-2014
    • Michigan State University
      • Department of Sociology
      Ист-Лансинг, Michigan, United States
  • 2010-2011
    • Lancaster University
      Lancaster, England, United Kingdom
  • 1983-2008
    • University of Kentucky
      • Department of Sociology
      Lexington, KY, United States
  • 2007
    • Cornell University
      Итак, New York, United States
  • 1982
    • Boulder County
      Boulder, Colorado, United States