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Self-reliant citizens and targeted populations: the case of Australian agriculture in the 1990s.

Since the early 1990s the notion of 'self-reliance' has assumed a central place in agricultural and regional policy in Australia. Applied specifically to agriculture, rural producers have been told by governments and farm organizations that they must become less dependent on government support and develop a more entrepreneurial attitude to financial and environmental risks. Such an approach is well illustrated in national initiatives such as the National Landcare Program (NLP) and Property Management Planning (PMP) (1) which are aimed at shaping farmers' management practices. On the one hand, it is argued in official policy documents that self-reliance is an essential part of farm management that leads to both profitability and long-term environmental sustainability. On the other hand, those farmers regarded by authorities as not having the capacity to become self-reliant are deemed to be hindering the development of a more internationally competitive sector and to have a limited future in primary production. A similar trend is evident in contemporary rural development strategies. These emphasize the significance of developing more enterprising attitudes among farmers so that they will deal effectively with change. (2) Communities that do not adopt, or resist such attitudes are blamed for their own demise. The notion of self-reliance also appears more generally in social policy, for example in the discourse of mutual obligation, with its powerful encouragement to managing the self more actively, in order to avoid dependence on government. (3)

In both social and rural policy an entrepreneurial and self-reliant approach is seen to be positive and liberating for the individual. It is frequently contrasted with the long-term dangers to self-esteem and personal development of a life of passivity and dependence. As Anna Yeatman notes, dependency, according to this perspective:
 ... is defined as incongruent with citizenship, where citizenship is
 assumed to reside in the kind of active membership of society that
 self-reliance makes possible through stable patterns of
 employment, domestic partnership, parenting, and involvement in
 voluntary associations. (4)

The separation of responsible 'active' citizenship from dependency noted by Yeatman seems highly significant to present policy initiatives aimed at enhancing the productivity of farmers. However, the deployment of self-reliance as a means of categorizing, and thereby enabling the government of certain types of farmers, has hardly been explored in the literature. This is surprising given the massive restructuring that has taken place within agricultural industries since the 1980s.

Self-reliance is frequently conceptualized as part of a global neo-liberalist approach to restructuring driven by powerful interests such as those of multinational agribusiness or global regulatory bodies. (5) However, while such 'macro' analysis provides valuable insights into the relations of production that have prompted the emergence of a self-reliance approach, it relies on a model of power that neglects the more subtle, productive and strategic ways in which self-reliance operates. As Michel Foucault has noted, power is productive in its effects. It categorizes, orders and produces particular domains of objects in terms of knowledge that is deemed to be truthful. (6) Thus, self-reliance as it is described in policy documents can be viewed as a means of defining and categorizing human capacities, and in doing so, as having productive power effects.

Drawing on the Foucauldian literature on governmentality, I argue in this article that programs encouraging self-reliance indicate a desire on the part of authorities to govern through the personal calculative capacities of individuals. Scholars such as Nikolas Rose refer to this as an advanced liberal form of rule. (7) Here, self-reliance represents a characteristic way of reflecting on how governing should be conducted, as well as an amalgam of technical means that seek to constitute and govern farmers as prudent business managers. Drawing upon agricultural policy documents published during the 1990s, I will argue that a governmentality approach enables a complex understanding of how self-reliance operates as a means of constituting and distributing the capacities of farmers as 'enterprising/non-enterprising', 'responsible / irresponsible' and 'viable / unviable'.

Advanced Liberalism: Governance through the Enterprising Self

From the perspective of scholars writing on modern governmentality, the emergence in the late 1970s and early 1980s of economic rationalism or neo-liberalism (8) in nations such as Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, needs to be examined as part of a shift in rationalities and technologies of government, rather than the gradual implementation of a neo-liberal political philosophy. (9) Characteristic of this shift is a new way of problematizing the activity of governing; one that seeks to de-governmentalize the state. (10) It is important to note that advanced liberal forms of governing do not represent a wholesale shift away from regulation via state forms (laissez-faire). Miller and Rose argue that it is misleading to distinguish a welfare state from more recent neo-liberal projects by counterposing an interventionist to a non-interventionist state. (11) Instead these schematizations of state forms represent different tactics of governing. Attention needs to be paid to:
 ... the diversity of mechanisms, both direct and indirect, through
 which political authorities have sought to act upon the entities and
 processes that make up a population in order to secure economic
 objectives, and the loose tie-ups between political ambitions,
 expert knowledge and the economic aspirations of individual firms.

Neo-liberalism marks a shift in rationalities and technologies of governing rather than a completely different state form.

Governing in an advanced liberal way portends a fundamental re-thinking of citizenship as social responsibility through a criticism of the inefficiencies and dangers of state involvement in social and economic life. As noted above, this does not mean the demise of the state, but rather a de-centring of the state's capacities to govern in the name of the social. Rose, for instance, notes that 'to govern better, the state must govern less; to optimise the economy, one must govern through the entrepreneurship of autonomous actors'. (13) That is to say, instead of citizenship constituted in terms of social obligations and collectivized risk it becomes individualized, based on one's capacities to conduct oneself in an entrepreneurial manner. In the Australian context, Wright has called this 'entrepreneurial government'. (14) In fact, advanced liberal forms of governing ask 'whether it is possible to govern without governing society, that is to say, to govern through the regulated and accountable choices of autonomous agents'. (15)

This means that one's life is constituted as a business enterprise, based on personal calculative capacities. (16) Security is achieved through 'active' forms of conduct (17) in which the making of prudent choices in a private market shows mastery over one's destiny. Indeed, O'Malley believes that this focus on individual responsibility may form the basis of a 'new prudentialism'. (18) The ethical basis of these forms of conduct is 'that it is a part of the continuous business of living to make adequate provision for the preservation, reproduction and reconstruction of one's own human capital'. (19) Here, economic efficiency becomes a central objective in its own right. Rather than social and economic objectives mutually reinforcing one another, Rose notes that these are treated increasingly as antagonistic, with the latter becoming de-socialized and naturalized as central to actively managing the self. (20)

A concern with techniques of self-government does not mean that the knowledge of expertise becomes irrelevant. Individuals are required to seek expert advice as a condition of maintaining their freedom. Here freedom is not a domain of liberty that is separate from power but rather the effect of a particular form of power. Experts are significant in 'empowering' individuals to rationally manage their life through 'certain professionally ratified mental, ethical and practical techniques for active self-management'. (21) From this perspective, active conduct requires guidance in terms of adopting a calculative and prudent approach to self-government. Equally, those who do not make seemingly responsible choices are characterized as 'targeted populations': (22) high-risk groups who lack the necessary life-management skills and who are believed to require normalizing interventions to transform them into 'active' citizens. Examples of such groups include the unemployed, (23) those in poverty (24) and rural communities. (25) This focus on enterprising conduct requires the strengthening of economic citizenship through marketized technologies that seek to enhance the capacities of individuals, which Dean refers to as 'technologies of agency'. (26) It is here that economists assume a significant role as the key authorities in representing conduct in an 'enterprising' form. As Gordon notes, rather than economics simply being about the allocation of scarce resources, it now becomes a distinct approach capable of addressing the totality of human behaviour. (27)

In this article I argue that policies of self-reliance, as they emerged in the early 1990s, were constituted through a calling into question of programs that had sought, with limited success, to improve the productivity of those on the 'margins' of agriculture. Attempts to resolve this problem focused on formal training and the adoption of business skills and techniques as the key to improving efficiency and sustainability. However, in encouraging farmers to improve their skills in business management, authorities contributed to the representation of the sector as based upon farmers' capacities to conduct themselves in an enterprising manner. This meant that the viability of farmers, and the long-term efficiency of the farm sector, came to be constituted as inseparable from the calculative capacities of individual producers. It led also to the categorization of farmers as either 'active' citizens or 'targeted' populations, based on these capacities.

The Constitution of Self-Reliance as a Strategy for Risk Management

During the first reading debate on the Rural Adjustment Bill, in November 1992, then Minister for Primary Industries and Energy Simon Crean stated that:
 The Government's vision is a farm sector which is able to thrive in
 a highly variable economic and natural resource environment,
 without relying on government assistance for survival and growth
 ... We [the government] will ensure that the operating
 environment within which farmers' work is conducted is
 conducive to sound business decision making, and that the
 messages farmers are receiving from us are consistent with an
 emphasis on self-reliance and risk management. (28)

This key statement by the Minister foreshadowed some significant changes to the governing of farm viability in which farmers' calculative capacities were to play a more significant role. Prior to 1992 it was assumed that the viability of farmers could be governed via purely financial incentives. Thus, farmers could apply for interest subsidies or concessional loans if they were facing temporary difficulties. Equally, household support payments and re-establishment grants were available to farmers wishing to leave the industry. These incentives continued after 1992. However, on the basis of evidence collected in numerous reviews, (29) their utility in achieving changes in the conduct of farmers was increasingly seen as limited. In addition to the problems in changing the behaviour of farmers, the Federal government argued that it could no longer afford to provide significant funding to agricultural industries. As a consequence, less (economically) costly and more efficient technologies were sought for governing farmers. From the late 1980s government concern shifted to finding more effective ways of 'smoothing' the process of change. (30)

Rural Adjustment Scheme (1992)

The 1992 Rural Adjustment Scheme (RAS) was one of the first agricultural programs to embody an explicit concern with building the management practices of farmers in order to achieve self-reliant farm units. While the previous version of the RAS had sought to improve the entrepreneurial capacities of farmers, it did not have the same concern with self-reliance. In the 1992 RAS, farmers were defined increasingly as business managers seen to require skills and training in order to become not only more 'resilient' and 'competitive', but also to make the most of their economic opportunities. (31) Self-reliance was equated with the adoption of business management practices, through which farmers could manage their risks in a profitable manner without having to earn any off-farm income (which was argued to distort on-farm management practices). With skills in business management, both the economic and physical environments could be knowable and calculable. RAS 1992, like other programs such as Landcare, was an advanced liberal way of governing in that it sought to shape farmers' self-regulatory practices in an economically 'responsible' and 'rational' manner. (32) On the one hand, the commitment to business training and productivity was to be achieved through two programs: skill-enhancement measures, which incorporated grants to eligible farmers to upgrade farm business and property management skills; and productivity enhancement measures, which incorporated interest subsidies of up to fifty per cent of the cost of commercial finance for improved production measures. On the other hand, those deemed incapable of improving their viability through training were encouraged to apply for an enhanced re-establishment grant, with funding of up to $45,000 for farmers wishing to leave the sector.

At the same time as encouraging entrepreneurial conduct via self-reliance, the Commonwealth (Labor) government attempted to establish a commitment to social justice as part of this approach. This involved short-term welfare support via the Farm Household Support Scheme, which had been part of previous rural adjustment programs. Provision for social support had been a central aspect of the RAS since its inception in 1977. In 1992 it was removed from the RAS to form a separate scheme. Household support, it appears, was regarded as both distorting the business signals the RAS was supposed to be sending to farmers and leading to insufficient numbers of 'unviable' producers leaving the industry. As Simon Crean noted, the purpose of shifting the Farm Household Support provision to a separate piece of legislation was so that it would 'not undermine the achievement of our goal of a productive and sustainable farm sector'. (33) Due to low participation by farmers, the Farm Household Support Scheme was eventually scrapped in the 1996/97 Federal Budget by a newly elected conservative Liberal/National Coalition government, and replaced with the broader Farm Family Restart Scheme discussed in a later section of this article.

The separation of 'welfare' and 'business' measures shows one of the key features of the focus on self-reliance. Rather than encouraging all those farmers defined as marginal to improve their productivity, RAS was now aimed at those who constructed their farms as business enterprises. In other words, as Gow and Stayner note, its focus was beginning to move away from those on the margins of viability towards producers deemed capable of substantially improving their productivity through formal business techniques. (34) From the perspective of an analytics of government, the key word here is capability, with authorities arguing that farmers required formal managerial skills in order for them to act in a more enterprising and productive manner. Those farmers deemed not to have the necessary qualities were thereby constituted as unviable and unable to read market signals correctly. (35) The separation of business and welfare was believed to improve not only the effectiveness of the RAS but to result in less confusion about its overall objectives. (36) This focus on the enhancement of managerial capacities was emphasized further in a 1994 Senate Report.

Senate Report on Rural Adjustment, Rural Debt and Rural Reconstruction (1994)

In March 1994 the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee was commissioned to inquire into the adequacy of farm adjustment and reconstruction programs, and the extent of rural debt in Australia. (37) The Committee's findings on farm adjustment--specifically the adequacy of training measures in RAS 1992--are of most relevance to this article and will therefore be given the greatest attention.

Skills enhancement

The skill enhancement component of the RAS provided grants to assist farmers to improve their managerial skills. Evidence submitted to the Committee supported the objectives of the 1992 RAS: that ongoing education and training was essential to improve farm management, and therefore productivity. The possession of a formal business plan was emphasized as a crucial part of effective farm management, although the Committee stopped short of recommending that these measures be mandatory for receipt of adjustment assistance. In particular, the Committee recommended that education and training represented a longer term and more effective means of assisting farmers than interest subsidies, which had been a central part of farm adjustment assistance since 1985.

The Committee recommended that:

* sound financial and management skills are the key to a robust, competitive, profitable and flexible farm sector. Accordingly, the Committee recommends that, in the medium to long term, skills enhancement, including education, training and access to professional advice, should become the principal component of the rural adjustment scheme;

* the Commonwealth and states develop procedures to ensure that recipients of RAS productivity and enhancement measures have sustainable business and farm plans. (38)

Re-establishment grants

The re-establishment grant was designed originally to facilitate an 'orderly' exit for farmers from the industry. However, evidence collected by the Committee suggested that there were only 2,123 approvals for such grants between 1977 and 1994. (39) This was a very small proportion of approvals compared to other sections within the RAS. It illustrates Miller and Rose's point that while governmentality is 'eternally optimistic', government is a 'congenitally failing operation'. (40) Based upon evidence concerning the effectiveness of re-establishment grants, the Committee recommended that the level of the grant be increased above $45,000 to facilitate a faster level of adjustment, or a modification of the assets threshold implemented so that farm families could exit the sector with more assets.

The Committee also recommended that a specific re-training component be included as part of the re-establishment grant. This is a significant point, as training was seen not simply as something to be administered to so-called viable producers. Those on the margins were targeted as requiring education to assist them in their decision to leave the sector and to find work in other occupations. This was to take a more programmatic form in the Agriculture--Advancing Australia package of 1997. Prior to the release of this package, the focus of training had centred almost solely on those producers seen as having the capacities for viability. The Report of the Land Management Task Force enabled formal farm management to be given a greater focus in improving viability via Property Management Planning.

Report of the Land Management Task Force (1995)

The Land Management Task Force was established in November 1994 by the Labor Prime Minister, Paul Keating, in response to the ongoing drought throughout much of Queensland and New South Wales. It was set up to investigate primarily how the adoption of formal property management planning by agricultural producers could assist in planning for drought and improving sustainability and productivity over the longer term. (41) The Property Management Planning campaign was launched originally by the Federal government in August 1992 as a joint Commonwealth-State initiative, funded through the National Landcare Program. It represents a very specific advanced liberal technology of governing in that it sought to enhance the individual managerial abilities of producers so that they would have the capacities to deal with their financial and environmental risk in an increasingly deregulated economic environment. (42) Of interest here is how the Task Force sought to link property management planning as a technology of risk management with productivity and farm viability.

One of the key arguments of the Land Management Task Force was that the adoption of formal business plans was crucial in responding to change and in establishing a standardized code for industry best practice, where producers could evaluate their management practices in a more rational manner. In other words, it was assumed that producers would, by employing formal property planning, know whether they were managing their properties in an efficient, sustainable and long-term viable manner. Accordingly, the Task Force defined property management planning as:
 An ongoing process for the total management of a farm business
 which assists producers to improve their profitability and achieve
 more sustainable resource use. It is regarded as a whole systems
 process whereby producers identify their personal objectives in the
 context of broader community aspirations. Then, by applying skills
 in business management, quality assurance, risk management,
 natural resource management including nature conservation,
 financial planning and control, marketing management,
 agricultural technology management and personal and staff
 management, they develop plans to fulfil those objectives. (43)

The adoption of these managerial skills was thought to be best achieved through producer participation in a series of voluntary introductory workshops focusing on business goal setting, natural resource evaluation and management, staff management, business planning, quality assurance, marketing and risk management. This was to be supplemented by ongoing education and training to improve farmers' decision-making capacities. According to the Task Force, the focus of the planning process 'should be on creating self-reliant farm enterprises'. (44) The role of government was said to be to ensure not only that the broader economic and institutional environment be conducive to 'sound decision making', but also that farmers be equipped with the 'tools, skills and knowledge ... that will enhance the overall performance of Australian agriculture'. (45) Property management planning represented, therefore, a very specific 'technology of agency' (46) whereby management expertise would shape farmers' calculative capacities so that they could evaluate their practices in a materially visible and 'rational' manner. Such planning, it was argued in the 1996/97 RAS mid-term review, required further policy emphasis.

Mid-Term Review of the Rural Adjustment Scheme (1996-1997)

The 1992 Rural Adjustment Act contained provisions for a midterm review of the RAS in 1996. In keeping with these provisions, a review was commenced in November of that year, with the final report released in May 1997. The review of the RAS took place at a time of continuing drought in eastern Australia and unfavourable terms of trade for many farmers. Election of the conservative Liberal/National Coalition government in March 1996 had placed micro-economic reform and greater competition--through the National Competition Policy--on the political agenda as central priorities. Business management by farmers was therefore the key issue shaping the Review Committee's evaluation of the effectiveness of the RAS.

The Committee's terms of reference were to 'report to the Minister for Primary Industries and Energy on the future adjustment challenges facing Australia's agricultural sector, the role of risk management in on-farm business strategies and the role, if any, of government intervention'. (47) These terms of reference were to take into account the appropriateness, performance, management, administration and delivery of the RAS. The Review Committee's final recommendations argued for a restructuring of adjustment assistance consistent with RAS objectives of individual risk management.

Drawing on the recommendations of previous reports and reviews, a firm focus on the role of education and training in fostering improved farm management was maintained. The Review claimed that once the decision-making capacity of farmers was strengthened, they could more effectively deal with the management of risk and adjustment pressures. It was argued that skills enhancement provisions had too little emphasis, receiving only a very small proportion of the Scheme's overall funding. The Review Committee recommended that a more central focus on enhancing skills, via property management planning, would improve farmers' managerial capacities and thus their productivity. Formal education enabled farmers to 'be self-reliant in managing their business or, for some, to recognise the inevitability of leaving agriculture and seeking off-farm pursuits and income'. (48) Thus, economic expertise was believed to enhance farmers' ability to assess their future viability in the industry and enable the most rational decisions. From this perspective, economic expertise had a central, authoritative role in transforming farmers into active risk managers.

The Review Committee recommended that RAS 1992 be terminated and replaced with a new program 'that addresses the adjustment issues of management skills, farmer re-establishment, savings and welfare'. (49) This was to consist of:

* a Farm Business Improvement Scheme (FarmBIS), to provide grants to community groups and farmers to 1. promote a culture of continuous learning and 2. enhance the capacity of farm managers to identify, acquire and apply the skills and information needed to improve the performance of their farm business;

* a Farm Re-establishment Scheme, comprising a package of business advice and assessment, and a $45,000 reestablishment grant available for two years to encourage farmers who wished to leave farming to do so as early as possible;

* development of improved instruments to promote farm savings;

* more responsive welfare arrangements. (50)

As with previous reports and reviews, the Mid-Term RAS Review Committee endorsed a self-reliant approach to managing climatic and financial risk. Farmers' self-regulatory capacities were seen as needing to be enhanced by formal business skills and education, through which they would be able to assess their conduct in a more economically calculable framework. Thus, the Review Committee again encouraged those technologies of governing that rendered farmers' practices visible, so that their agency could be shaped in a manner consistent with a rationality of managed risk.

Agriculture--Advancing Australia (1997)

The outcomes of the RAS Mid-Term Review, the Report of the Land Management Task Force, and the Report of the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee, were all significant in the formulation of the Commonwealth's Agriculture--Advancing Australia policy (or the 'Triple A' package) announced in September 1997. While remaining committed to a strategy of self-reliance, this policy saw the abolition of the RAS, with farm business objectives separated even more distinctly from welfare measures.

The Federal government argued that the Triple A package would promote 'a more competitive, sustainable and profitable' rural sector, according to four objectives:

* to help individual farm businesses profit from change;

* to ensure the farm sector has access to an adequate welfare safety net;

* to provide incentives for ongoing farm adjustment; and,

* to encourage social and economic development in rural areas. (51)

The first three objectives are of most interest here as they are linked to measures available previously through the RAS. Consistent with the recommendations of the RAS Mid-Term Review, the business elements implemented through the Triple A package included a Farm Management Deposits Scheme and a Farm Business Improvement Program (FarmBis). A Farm Family Restart Scheme was the central welfare element in the package.

Farm Management Deposit Scheme

The Farm Management Deposit Scheme (FMDs), which commenced in July 1998, was designed to replace the former Farm Management Bonds Scheme (FMBs) and the Income Equalisation Deposits Scheme (IEDs). It was to provide a mechanism for enhancing farmers' abilities to manage financial risk, and was administered by financial institutions. While the transfer of administrative responsibility to financial institutions might appear to indicate that the FMDs was a fully privatized form of financial risk management, this was not the case. Rather, the Commonwealth government constructed its role as 'providing the tools to assist farmers plan for future uncertainties'. (52) In other words, while the Commonwealth was responsible for the policy instruments to be used in the scheme, the banks' role was to distribute the funds in accordance with Federal government guidelines. Thus FMDs represented a technical means for state agencies to act on farmers' self-regulatory capacities 'at a distance' (53) so that they would evaluate their financial practices in seemingly more rational ways.

Farm Business Improvement Program

The Farm Business Improvement Program (FarmBis) provided financial support for skills development, farm financial planning and advice, farm performance benchmarking, quality assurance, marketing, risk management, rural leadership development and natural resource management. These, it was claimed, were needed to improve the skill base, profitability and sustainability of farm businesses. (54) One of the assumptions underpinning this program was that formal training contributed to improved profitability and environmental sustainability. However, the influence of formal risk management skills on farms' financial performance is a complex and contested issue. (55)

Research conducted for the National Farmers' Federation by Kilpatrick suggests that there is a link between farmers' levels of formal education and training, on the one hand, and their level of productivity and profitability, on the other. (56) However, she also notes that changes in farm management practice are influenced by a diversity of factors. Bamberry, Dunn and Lamont provide support for this point, noting that policies seeking to link productivity with formal management practices need to take into account farmers' own understandings of their practices, particularly the role of non-vocational training, 'local' knowledge, and 'innate ability'. (57) This suggests that producers' 'indigenous' knowledges need to be considered more closely in programs that attempt to govern through the agency of farmers. Nevertheless, in its present form the promotion of formal managerial skills might be seen as an attempt to govern farm practice in an advanced liberal way. That is to say, formal training represents a technological means in which the use of economic management techniques is constituted as the most truthful way of assessing (and altering) a property's viability, as well as producing more responsible farmers. In 2000 FarmBis was amalgamated with Property Management Planning, thus ensuring a single integrated scheme through which farmers' management practices could be categorized, evaluated and altered in a formal economic manner.

Farm Family Restart Scheme

The Farm Family Restart Scheme (FFRS) was aimed at low-income farmers experiencing financial hardship and those who wished to leave the industry. Three programs were offered within the Scheme. Restart Income Support provided twelve months of income support while farmers decided whether or not to leave the industry. A re-establishment grant of up to $45,000 was offered to farmers wishing to leave the sector, while professional advice up to the value of $3,000 was available to farmers wanting to explore options outside the industry. Counselling, as offered in this scheme, is the most significant issue from the perspective of an analytics of government.

As part of the FFRS, professional financial advice in one or more of the areas pertaining to financial planning, business management, career options, legal matters, and personal and family matters, was compulsory for farmers on income support, or for those unable to sell their properties within three months. Such advice, suggested originally by the Senate Review of 1994, provided an assessment of the property's viability and encouraged the development of a formal plan for the future. (58) In making counselling compulsory, farmers who could not become self-reliant were effectively constituted as non-viable and seen as having neither the necessary skills nor entrepreneurial drive to remain in the industry. Financial incentives encouraged farmers to evaluate their managerial practices and options in economic terms and, in turn, formulate the seemingly most rational response to their circumstances. In this way, the counselling component of the FFRS represented a technological means through which farmers could come to know that their practices were non-viable in the long term. Their exit was thereby governed by individual choice rather than via more coercive forms of intervention.

The creation of FarmBis to encourage enhanced formal management skills, and the establishment of a FMDs to foster financial self-reliance, show the importance of advanced liberal rationalities and technologies of governing in constituting both the environment within which farmers make their decisions, and the types of conduct deemed rational within that environment. Equally, those farmers unable to take a more personalized approach to risk are constituted, through the FFRS, as unviable and counselled to reassess their future in farming. In this way, the capacity of farmers to be active agents in their own self-governance (via business techniques) assumes central importance in the categorization of farmers as either viable or unviable.


I have argued that self-reliance is an assemblage of rationalities and technologies for governing in an advanced liberal way which defines certain practices as 'rational' and 'truthful' and shapes the capacities (agency) of farmers so that they have the knowledge to reflect and act upon their conduct as either viable or unviable producers. As a strategy for governing, self-reliance constitutes farmers as utility-maximizing individuals who, if equipped with the correct training and skills, are able to manage their properties in a planned, productive and rational manner. Once viewed in this way, individual managerial capacities assume prominence as the main basis for categorizing farmers as viable or unviable, as well as coming to constitute legitimate sites of reform and restructuring.

On the one hand, producers who engage in 'enterprising' conduct, such as involvement in business training courses or whole farm planning, are categorized as 'active' and responsible citizens who have demonstrated the capabilities for long-term viability. On the other hand, those who do not, or are unable to adopt what is defined as a 'responsible' business-oriented relation to risk are constituted as targeted populations lacking the capacities for managing their farms in a viable manner. Such individuals are deemed candidates for welfare, and provided with forms of knowledge, such as financial counselling, that indicate they do not have a long-term future in the industry. The individualization of risk, therefore, is the most crucial aspect of self-reliance. Indeed, a sustainable and financially profitable farm is said by authorities not to be possible without the application of business management techniques.

The individualization of risk involves technologies of agency that seek to achieve changes in how farmers reflect upon their management practices. Such technologies have enabled a particular representation of farm viability to be rendered 'visible', one in which the practices of farmers are argued to require more effective--rather than simply more--state intervention, so that they have the future capacities to conduct themselves in an enterprising way. This is most obvious in the promotion of property management planning which seeks to 'benchmark' the practices and techniques for operating a viable property. In this way, self-reliance is inseparable from the rationalities and techniques that have defined both the 'proper' limits of government and the capacities of the governed.

As I have shown in this example of self-reliance, attention to the more subtle and strategic ways in which rule operates enables an analysis of how power orders, categorizes and constitutes domains as governable. Such analysis represents an important first step in showing the role of seemingly mundane knowledge practices in constituting projects of rule, and the effects these have on what counts as a viable enterprise, a sustainable practice, or a responsible individual.

(1) See S. Lockie, 'The State, Rural Environments and Globalisation: "Action at a Distance" via the Australian Landcare Program', Environment and Planning A, vol. 31, no. 4, pp. 597-611, 1999.

(2) L. Herbert-Cheshire, 'Contemporary Strategies for Rural Community Development in Australia: a Governmentality Perspective', Journal of Rural Studies, vol. 16, no. 2, pp. 203-15, 2000.

(3.) See for example, A. Yeatman, 'Mutual Obligation: What Kind of Contract is This?' in S. Shaver and P. Saunders (eds), Social Policy for the 21st Century: Justice and Responsibility, Proceedings of the National Social Policy Conference, Sydney, 2123 July 1999, Sydney, Social Policy Research Centre, pp. 255-68, 1999.

(4.) Yeatman, p. 258.

(5.) R. Le Heron, Globalised Agriculture: Political Choice, Oxford, Pergamon Press, 1993; A. Bonanno, L. Busch, W. Friedland, L. Gouveia and E. Mingione, 'Introduction', in A. Bonanno, L. Busch, W. Friedland, L. Gouveia and E. Mingione (eds), From Columbus to ConAgra: The Globalisation of Agriculture and Food, Lawrence, University of Kansas Press, 1994, pp. 126; P. McMichael, Development and Social Change, Thousand Oaks, CA, Pine Forge Press, 1996.

(6.) For example, see M. Foucault, 'Two Lectures', in C. Gordon (ed.), Powel/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings 1972-1977, C. Gordon, L. Marshall, J. Mepham and K. Soper, trans, Brighton, Harvester Press, 1980, pp. 78-108.

(7.) See in particular N. Rose, 'Government, Authority and Expertise in Advanced Liberalism', Economy and Society, vol. 22, no. 3, pp. 283-99, 1993; N. Rose, Powers of Freedom: Reframing Political Thought, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1999.

(8.) See M. Pusey, Economic Rationalism in Canberra: A Nation-Building State Changes its Mind, Sydney, Cambridge University Press, 1991; M. Muetzelfeldt, 'Economic Rationalism its Social Context', in M. Muetzelfeldt (ed.), Society State and Politics in Australia, Sydney, Pluto Press, 1992, pp. 187-215; F. Stilwell, 'Economic Rationalism: Sound Foundations for Policy?' in S. Rees, G. Rodley and F. Stilwell (eds), Beyond the Market: Alternatives to Economic Rationalism, Sydney, Pluto Press, 1993, pp. 27-37.

(9.) Beeson and Firth (1998) provide a detailed discussion of this issue with particular reference to Australia. See M. Beeson and A. Firth, 'Neoliberalism as a Political Rationality: Australian Public Policy Since the 1980s', Journal of Sociology, vol. 34, no. 3, 1998, pp. 215-31.

(10.) N. Rose, 'Governing' Advanced 'Liberal Democracies', in A. Barry, T. Osborne and N. Rose (eds), Foucault and Political Reason: Liberalism, Neo-Liberalism and Rationalities of Government, Chicago, Chicago University Press, p. 41, 1996; See also M. Dean, Governmentality: Power and Rule in Modern Society, Sage, London, 1999.

(11.) P. Miller and N. Rose, 'Governing Economic Life, Economy and Society, vol. 19, no. 1, p. 15.

(12.) Miller and Rose, p. 16.

(13.) Rose, Powers of Freedom, p. 139.

(14.) R. Wright, 'Re-inventing Good Government?' Arena Journal, no. 11, 1998, pp. 97-118.

(15.) Rose, 'Government, Authority and Expertise', p. 298.

(16.) C. Gordon, 'Governmental Rationality: An Introduction', in G. Burchell, C. Gordon and P. Miller (eds), The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality, London, Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1991; pp. 151. See also Wright.

(17.) M. Dean, 'Sociology after Society', in D. Owen (ed.), Sociology after Postmodernism, London, Sage, 1997, pp. 205-28; Dean, Governmentality.

(18.) P. O'Malley, 'Risk, Power and Crime Prevention', Economy and Society, vol. 21, no. 3, 1992, pp. 252-75.

(19.) Gordon, 'Governmental Rationality', p. 44.

(20.) N. Rose, 'The Death of the Social?: Re-figuring the Territory of Government', Economy and Society, vol. 25, no. 3, 1996, pp. 32-56.

(21.) Rose, 'The Death of the Social?' p. 348.

(22.) Dean, 'Sociology after Society'; Dean, Governmentality.

(23.) M. Dean, 'Administering Asceticism: Re-working the Ethical Life of the Unemployed Citizen', in M. Dean and B. Hindess (eds), Governing Australia: Studies in Contemporary Rationalities of Government, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1998, pp. 87-107.

(24.) M. Dean, The Constitution of Poverty: Toward a Genealogy of Liberal Governance, London, Routledge, 1991.

(25.) Herbert-Cheshire.

(26.) Dean, 'Sociology after Society'; Dean, Governmentality.

(27.) Gordon, 'Governmental Rationality', p. 43.

(28.) House of Representatives debate on Rural Adjustment Bill, Hansard, 3 November 1902.

(29.) For example, Synapse Consulting, Report of the Review of the Rural Adjustment Scheme; Commonwealth of Australia, Rural Adjustment, Rural Debt and Rural Reconstruction; Commonwealth of Australia, Managing for the Future: Report of the Land Management Task Force, Canberra, Australian Government Publishing Service, 1995; McColl et al., Rural Adjustment.

(30.) V. Higgins, 'Assembling Restructuring: Governmentality, Economic Regulation and the Historical Emergence of the "Enterprizing Farmer" in Australian Agricultural Policy', Review of International Political Economy, vol. 8, no. 2, 2001.

(31.) Debate on Rural Adjustment Bill.

(32.) See P. Martin, 'The Constitution of Power in Landcare: a Post structuralist Perspective with Modernist Undertones', in S. Lockie and F. Vanclay (eds), Critical Landcare, Wagga Wagga, Centre for Rural Social Research, Charles Sturt University--Riverina, 1997, pp. 455-6; Lockie, 'The State, Rural Environments and Globalisation'.

(33.) Debate on Rural Adjustment Bill, p.2417.

(34.) J. Gow and R. Stayner, 'The Process of Farm Adjustment: A Critical Review', Review of Marketing and Agricultural Economics, vol. 63, no. 2, 1995, pp. 272-83, see also B. Malcolm, B. Davidson and E. Vandenburg, The Rural Adjustment Scheme: Its Role, Operation and Effectiveness, Canberra, Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation, 2000.

(35.) See G. Lawrence, 'Farm Structural Adjustment: the Imperative for the Nineties, Rural Society, vol. 2, no. 4, 1992, pp. 57.

(36.) See C. E. Hyde, The Rural Adjustment Scheme: An Economic Analysis, Melbourne, Dept. of Economics, University of Melbourne, 1997.

(37.) See Commonwealth of Australia, Rural Adjustment, Rural Debt and Rural Reconstruction.

(38.) Commonwealth of Australia, Rural Adjustment, Rural Debt and Rural Reconstruction, p. 42.

(39.) Commonwealth of Australia, Rural Adjustment, Rural Debt and Rural Reconstruction, Appendix Three.

(40.) Miller and Rose. 'Governing Economic Life', p. 10.

(41.) Commonwealth of Australia, Managing for the Future, p. 117.

(42.) Lockie, 'The State, Rural Environments and Globalisation'.

(43.) Commonwealth of Australia, Managing for the Future, p. 17.

(44.) Commonwealth of Australia, Managing for the Future, p. 102.

(45.) Commonwealth of Australia, Managing for the Future, pp. 102-3.

(46.) See Dean, 'Sociology after Society'; Dean, Governmentality.

(47.) McColl et al., Rural Adjustment, p. 145

(48.) McColl et al., p. 85.

(49.) McColl et al., p. 119.

(50.) Derived from McColl et al., pp. 118-20.

(51.) Department of Primary Industries and Energy, Agriculture--Advancing Australia, 1998 (located at

(52.) Department of Primary Industries and Energy, Agriculture--Advancing Australia, htt:///, p. 4.

(53.) Miller and Rose, "Governing Economic Life'; See also N. Rose and P. Miller, 'Political Power Beyond the State: Problematics of Government', Economy and Society, vol. 43, no. 2, 1992, pp. 173-205.

(54.) Department of Primary Industries and Energy, Agriculture--Advancing Australia.

(55.) See Hyde, The Rural Adjustment Scheme.

(56.) S. Kilpatrick, Change, Training and Farm Profitability, Canberra, National Farmers' Federation, 1996.

(57.) G. Bamberry, T. Dunn and A. Lamont, A Pilot Study to Investigate the Relationship Between Farmer Education and Good Farm Management, Canberra, Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation, 1997.

(58.) Department of Primary Industries and Energy, Agriculture--Advancing Australia.
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Author:Higgins, Vaughan
Publication:Arena Journal
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Sep 22, 2002
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