An international division of nature: The effects of structural adjustment on agricultural sustainability
Mancus, Philip Michael
Representing a distinct contribution to the tradition of comparative international research in the environment, this dissertation studies the effects of national economic restructuring programs, implemented under the administration of multilateral development institutions, on the fertilizer intensity, energy intensity, and value efficiency of national commodity agriculture for the period 1980 to 2002. Known as structural adjustment, these conditional loan agreements have been thoroughly studied with respect to various social outcomes but in terms of environment impact, sociological investigation has been limited to case studies and to preliminary quantitative analyses of deforestation. Examining the consequences of structural adjustment on soil fertility management is a unique contribution to the field. Combining empirical work with theoretical explication, I frame the object of study using agrarian systems theory and the concept of societal metabolism, examining how the problem of soil fertility in the modern era has become subsumed into industrial processes that are fossil-energy intensive. Relating this historical development to the ongoing dialectic between the forces, relations, and conditions of production, I investigate how the international division of labor, manifested in the uneven and combined development of national economies, facilitates an international division of nature and thereby reproduces the hierarchical system of appropriation that drives the ongoing global expansion of the metabolic rift. Laying out competing theoretical perspectives on the potential for rational management of agricultural modernization, in the empirical component of this project I employ cross-sectional time-series panel regression analysis of secondary data on national development indicators in order to evaluate the relative merits of these contrasting theories for the sustainable development possibilities of Third World nations. The cumulative effects of structural adjustment significantly and independently increase the negative externalities of agricultural modernization while at the same time diminishing the potential economic efficiency of intensive nutrient management.