Read CHAPTER 2: text version


This dissertation is situated at one of the intersections of environmental sociology and the sociology of agriculture. Both sub-disciplines of sociology contain a myriad of theoretical perspectives, levels of analysis, and empirical foci. Each has investigated the inter-relationships within and between ecological conditions, social and individual reproduction, and communal infrastructures and ideologies in using diverse methods across space and time. Both subdisciplines also continue to generate unproductive debates about the relative centrality of "micro" vs. "macro-sociological" perspectives. Within environmental sociology, these debates are associated with the predilection to oppose historical and political economic theories with attitudinal and local ethnographic research.1 Within the latest incarnation of agricultural sociology these debates have emerged from technological and political economic criticisms of traditional rural sociology and the bifurcated content of the modes of production debate wherein advocates of global perspectives and researchers endorsing site-specific analysis talked past each other for more than a decade. My purpose here is to sublate these dualisms through a historical presentation of the political economic and environmental evolution of irrigated agriculture in the Imperial Valley. Discrete, though frequently conflated, concerns over levels and units of analysis are central to the project I have developed. To date, little sociological work has attempted to intertwine the local and the global through regional analysis. However, more of this work is


Note the mind-body dualism here. Historical and political economic research is traditionally viewed as theorydriven and is often derived from textual data sources, both quantitative and qualitative. Surveys and ethnographic research has traditionally been viewed as grounded in real people in immediate locations. That academic debates reproduce societal dualisms is not surprising, just tragic, contradictory, and disabling. The reproduction of mind-body dualisms in both sub-disciplines contributes to the ineffectiveness of each as applied social science with real material and political consequences. 5

emerging as trans-disciplinary topics evolve and multi-disciplinary research increases. This exercise addresses an ambiguous unit of analysis, a region, and does so historically using perspectives generated by viewpoints "above" and "below" the region. Abstract and empirical ecological, personal, and communal developments are viewed synchronically, diachronically, and contextually. The key point is that the region investigated, the Imperial Valley of southeastern California, inextricably embodies developmental trajectories and contingencies formally generated within the region and modally conditioned by developments and contexts outside the region. To trope Marx, regional evolution is always made locally but not under conditions chosen by regional actors. This study of the Imperial Valley focuses on the establishment of the preconditions for agricultural development in the region, the production of the material conditions necessary for successful agricultural accumulation, and the crises of irrigated capitalist agriculture in the region. The theories that are used to organize the historical materials are primarily political economic in character. However, because these same theories are brought to bear on the specific environment within which agriculture in the Valley developed, regional ecological stability, labor reproduction, and community life all actively mediate the structural determinations of regional development suggested by abstract political economic theory. Tendencies derived from sociological theories do not produce materially teleological outcomes, though useful sociological and political economic theories suggest the central categories, relationships and mediations to be empirically investigated. Initially, this analysis of the Imperial Valley was stimulated by the extraordinary destruction wreaked on the valley's agriculture by a "superpest," the Silver Leaf whitefly in 1991 and 1992. However, generating a sociological history of this crisis illuminated a far more


complex, provocative, and previously untold history of the development of capitalist agriculture in the Valley. Understanding the historical negotiations with, and power struggles over, ecological conditions, labor relations, and community life became necessary for telling the story of the whitefly, and as a result the whitefly was displaced as the central moment in the account. Further, in order to understand the history of the region it was necessary to reach back as far as the Gold Rush in the late 1840s, when the irrigation potential of the Valley was first recognized and publicly proposed. Simply put, the growing season in the Valley is among the longest in the country and markets for many agricultural commodities produced in the region remained very strong until the very recent past. Before the region was first irrigated in 1901, it was clear to many who knew about the region that, were water supplies to be controlled, progressive farmers to settle, labor to be reliably supplied, and communities built, the region was a can't miss proposition. It took forty years, from 1901 through 1941, for the many struggles and extensive negotiations within and between regional and federal legislative bodies and bureaucratic agencies to generate the productive conditions for success. Over the next thirty years, from 1942 through 1972, despite federal court cases and bureaucratic wrangling, the glory years of Imperial Valley agriculture came to pass. During the last twenty years, from 1973 through 1993, renewed ecological problems, extensive labor struggles, broad community decline, new forms of agricultural regulation, and market competition from national and international sources have engendered crisis-ridden contradictions in the region's development. The shape of the future in the Imperial Valley remains quite unclear, and it is this situation that is, perhaps, the most important part of the history of California's southeastern desert.


Marx/Marxists on Overproduction and State Crisis

The theoretical ground upon which this dissertation is constructed, in its environmental and agricultural sociological foundation, is Marxist in form and content. A flexible extension of Marx's materialist theory of history grounds this work. More specifically, Marx's abstract critique of capitalist economies, their social consequences and crisis tendencies, is the basis upon which the environmental Marxist theories of economic development, political mediation, and environmental consequences used here are constructed. Methodologically, terms and categories are defined and analyzed dialectically-in a manner which abstracts units and levels of analysis while insisting on their inescapable material inter-connection. What follows is a short presentation of the materialist theory of history elaborated by Marx, and extended by its theoretical proponents and friendly critics. The keys will be to assess, critique and extend the analysis and meaning of productive forces, production, relations, and economic crisis. An environmental Marxist critique and extension of Marx's historical approach and materialist focus will then be introduced. The object is to make Marx's theoretical innovations more deeply historical and material by dialectically introducing theories of the state, theories of capitalist culture/community, and a theory of capitalist relations with nature. This extension will act as a means for organizing a cursory review of the literature within the developing sociology and political economy of agriculture, augmented by selective references to the equally nascent sociology of environment. In "The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte" Marx wrote that "Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past." (Marx 1979: 103) While he went on to treat this position as a preface to tragedy and farce, Marx dearly intended to address both the social and participatory agency of individuals


and groups in the production and reproduction of their own lives under materially and ideologically constrained conditions. In part because of his opposition to idealist theories of historical development, Marx's focus fell on the abstract assessment of the material structural contradictions of capitalist economics. Fully cognizant of the abstract character of his approach, as evidenced by the extraordinary number of caveats and explicit acknowledgment of moments of social life excluded from his work, Marx elaborated a labor theory of value and a theory of economic production and crisis under capitalism.2 In massively oversimplified form, Marx's argument suggests that under the fully commodified conditions of modern industry there is a structural contradiction between the need of individual capitalists to increase productive efficiency (by restructuring production by technological means) and the need for sufficient consumer demand for capitalistically produced commodities. In a closed capitalist system, market competition and increases in productive efficiency generate a deficit in consumer demand. The greater the production per unit wage, given a specified wage rate, the greater the gap between inventory and sales. More commodities produced by the same number, or fewer, laborers means less money in the marketplace to buy the greater number of commodities. As a result, consumer credit must be extended, export platforms promoted, and planned obsolescence encouraged. However, given saturated markets, the collective consequence of individual capitalist imperatives is systemic crisis. Overproduction or realization crisis results from the contradiction between increasingly efficient productive forces and waged production relations. The materialist conception of history was a vast improvement over idealist views of history because of its two-sidedness, or its insistence that `empirical reality' is


Marx certainly was not cognizant of the totality of his abstractions, though this is hardly a meaningful critique. The elaboration of Marx's theory which follows points to some of the abstractions which have been made more material by subsequent extensions and elaborations of his work. 9

always ambiguous, expressing as it does the tension between social relations and material-technical relations. (O'Connor 1993b: 2) In many of the elaborations of this materialist approach to history, outside of the analysis of revolutionary periods, relations between humans and nature have been privileged over relations between humans and humans. Of course, human beings are natural and nature is an ideological and social construct such that the two sets of relations are materially and dialectically connected. Nevertheless, historically changes in productive forces, e.g., science, technology, and/or Taylorist productive organization, have been understood to drive changes in production relations. The advance and accumulation of productive forces, therefore, is understood to drive and limit the development of production relations, themselves not historically cumulative. Production relations, unlike productive forces, develop in a sort of punctuated evolution, gradual change with periodic revolution. (O'Connor 1993b: 1-2) Of course, technical human-nature relations are socially organized. Nevertheless, Marx and traditional Marxists have given analytic primacy to technical relations over social relations. Under capitalism, productive forces represented the tripartite mediation of capital and nature by social labor; production relations comprised two terms only, capital and labor. Given saturated markets, the contradiction between capitalist' forces and relations of production was to generate increasingly broad economic crisis and social immiseration. This gradual worsening was to lead to a working class revolution which would overthrow the capital and restructure production, the state, and society in the interests of that class. This, again, is a great over-simplification of a largely underdeveloped political theory. As is universally acknowledged, despite great industrial development and social immiseration, systemic economic crises in the 1870s, 1890s, and 1930s did not generate extensive class-based revolutionary fervor within industrially developed countries. As a result, within and across industrial, semi-industrial,


and "developing" countries, political and intellectual debates raged over the necessity of interclass cooperation and struggle. Famous among these debates are those between Lenin and Kautsky over "The Peasant Question" (Friedland 1991a), Gramsci's innovations with respect to the role of culture and the state in material and ideological hegemony (Gramsci 1971), the Frankfurt School's philosophical critiques of enlightenment thought, capitalist culture, and political domination. (Horkheimer and Adorno 1988) These debates and theoretical developments extended a productivist economic theory into the realm of civil society, cultural politics, and ideological critique. They advanced the dialectical understanding of the enablements and constraints within which people produce and reproduce their own lives. After World War II, with the extensive elaboration of New Deal and social democratic state bureaucracies, cultural and political debates continued as increas-ing theoretical concern with the role of the state evolved. Most important among the Marxist developments in state theory, in the United States, was the work of Baran and Sweezy (1966), and O'Connor (1973). These theorists investigated the interpenetration of the state, monopoly capital, and organized labor and the role of the state as a relatively autonomous agent negotiating the contradictory fiscal and regulatory waters between the Scylla of accumulation and the Charybdis of legitimation. By the end of the 1960s, debates within and between the Old Left and New Left greatly expanded the scope and depth of Marxist, Neo-Marxist, and Neo-Weberian investigations of social relations and movements. New social movements and theory have extended the critical analysis of the economy, working class culture, and the state into purportedly "non-class" issues such as race; gender and sexuality; eco-logical pollution, depletion and destruction; and community-based culture, infrastructure and symbolism. The great benefit of this splintering of critical focus has been to


broaden and deepen the scope of research agendas while exploding previously stultifying intellectual boundaries. The great cost has been that the celebration of site-specificity and difference which has resulted has often, though not always, broadened and deepened an intellectual tendency to know more and more about less and less, without the suggestion that communication in search of composite and combined viewpoints could carry intellectual worth or might generate political strength.

Environmental Marxism

What follows represents a theoretical position, initially developed by O'Connor (1988), which flexibly encompasses abstract Marxist structural theories of economic crisis and more immediately materialist situational theories of ecological, personal, and communal conditions generally advanced by theorists of new social movements. Perhaps the key to the differentiation lies in the elaboration of theories of ecological, personal, and communal crisis in the work of environmental Marxism and the general lack of the theory of crisis within the new social movements literatures. In standard historical materialism, the technical and scientific productive forces in modern industry are viewed as transforming nature more than nature transforms itself and are understood to determine and limit relations within production.3 In short, production is understood to determine the reproduction of society and nature. Yet, Marxist and non-Marxist critics alike have clearly shown that nature and culture, as well as labor, dialectically mediate production and vice versa. The problem, overstated, is that both `culture' and `nature' are


Production relations are three sided: exploiting-exploited (imposition of labor, extraction of surplus), within exploiting (distribution and use of surplus), and within exploited (cooperation/intersubjectivity). "The Marxist tradition privileges the relationship between exploiting and exploited classes... the relations within the exploiting and exploited classes (e.g., intersubjectivity) were undertheorized by Marx.... In other words, Marx conflated the issues of technical cooperation and social domination or control." (O'Connor 1992: 6-7) 12

missing from the conceptualizations of both the productive forces and production relations in traditional Marxist formulations. Historical materialism... needs to be extended outward into physical nature in the sense that natural history (both `first' and `second' nature) may be regarded as influencing human history as much as vice versa, depending on circumstances.... Historical materialism also needs to be extended inward in the sense that human biological changes and socially organized processes of species reproduction, however much these are socially mediated and even socially constructed, influence both human history and natural history as much as the other way around, again depending on circumstances. (O'Connor 1993b: 6) Similarly, with respect to culture: Historical materialism also needs to be extended outward into civil society in the sense that cultural history may be regarded as influencing human history as much as vice versa, depending on circumstances. Historical materialism needs also to be extended inward in the sense that human self-reflexivity and inter-subjectivity, however much biologically mediated and genetically determined, influence both human history and natural history as much as the other way around, again depending on circumstances. Nature is no more simply the object of production than civil society directly reflects the structure of production or the state. The theoretical perspective Marx generated with respect to the reasons why capitalism works when it works and does not work when it does not are very powerful. Given that there are large gaps in the theory with respect to the importance of culture, nature, and the state, how should we extend the theory to encompass the moments when they overlap with political economic production and crisis? To start, it is important to investigate more deeply the terms Marx himself generated, to see how they might be expanded to better relate to nature and culture. Marx treated forces and relations of production as "externally" dialectically related. However, his approach to the "internal" dynamics of both forces and relations was surprisingly linear and objectivist.


Productive forces need to be understood as simultaneously objective and subjective. Inasmuch as productive forces represent natural materials and embody "natural laws" they can be said to be objective. Inasmuch as productive forces include the inter-subjective and cooperative activities of living people, mediated by socially engendered technical skills and practices, productive forces are subjective. Production relations need to be understood in the same manner. The development of relations of production by means of the "law of value, competition, concentration and centralization of capital, and other tendential laws of capitalism" represents an objective analytic moment. Subjectively, the development of capitalist production relations is universally and individually mediated by cultural concepts of social strata, property relations, and the organization of exploitation through cultural practices. The reason that the traditional [Marxist] formulation of material life neglects the problems of culture and nature, i.e., why there are few if any cultural and natural theories of productive forces and production relations, is that the theme of cooperation, including cooperation within nature's economy, is treated in onesided ways, when it is treated at all. (O'Connor 1992: 3) For traditional historical materialism, social labor and modes of productive cooperation are treated as the embodiment of domination and struggle between capital and labor. The role of inter- and intra-class cooperation remains largely absent in this account and, as a result, social labor is understood in impoverished fashion. Within the traditional approach, class-based "circumstances directly found" determine how people "make their own lives" in an insufficiently dialectical manner. In fact, the mode of cooperation is both a force and relation of production. The mode of cooperation is indeterminate. It is impossible to determine technical relations without knowing the exigencies of power relations; it is also impossible to know the latter without knowing the former.... Further..., cooperation is based in small or large degrees on cultural norms and ecological forms.... [T]he mode of cooperation is not doubly determined, but quadrupally determined. In sum, not only technology and property and power, but also culture and nature are ingrained


in modes of cooperation ­ in highly historically specific and contingent ways. (O'Connor 1992: 4) By approaching social labor as simultaneously flush with domination and cooperation, as a force and relation of production, the term retains its central location within historical materialism while gaining broad access to relatively autonomous cultural and ecological contexts. The abstract analysis of capitalism as a mode of production loses nothing while gaining historical and immediate richness as a result of labor's universally ecological and cultural conditions. The culturally constructed and naturally mediated character of productive forces and production relations illuminates not only the productive mediations of ecological transformation and cultural change but also necessarily extends the vision of Marxist theorists into realms associated with the irreducible autonomy of cultural and ecological processes. Nature and culture are active partners in the individual and social negotiation of how we make our lives and how the conditions we find are generated. Under capitalism, then, social labor not only mediates between natural and cultural process (each broadly understood), but is importantly mediated back by those same processes. Human labor is organized not only by power and the law of value but also by cultural practices. In turn cultural practices are shaped by forms of social labor.... Social labor is also inscribed by nature and vice versa. Human labor is organized not only by power, valorization, and culture but also by nature's economy. In turn, nature's economy is constantly changed or modified by social labor. (O'Connor 1992: 11) Historical materialism must therefore be made both more historical and more material. In important ways this greater historical and material content transforms the approach to the abstract theory of capitalism, and capitalist overproduction tendencies generated by Marx. Nature can no longer be approached as a source of material wealth only as a use-value. Further, cultural and political forms can no longer be viewed as contextual and super-structural


mediations of post-production exchange. "Here we find a clear-cut distinction between classical Marxism and present day eco-Marxist and other thinkers who want to fundamentally revise value theory in ways which would include some concept of ecological cost in the exchange value of a commodity-a project which may or may not ripen into a new theory of value." (O'Connor 1993b: 9) Such a new theory of value, which will not be developed here, would have broaden the analyses of capitalist production and generate new theoretical and methodological means by which to comprehensively investigate the cultural and ecological consequences of capitalist production. Marx and Engels were not focused on the particular and general contradictory processes associated with capitalist transformations of ecological and cultural forms, though they were not ignorant of such contradictions. It is fair to conclude... that while Marx and Engels were master theoreticians of the social havoc caused by capitalist development, neither put ecological destruction at the center of their theory of capital. They underestimated the degree to which the historical progression of capitalism as a mode of production has been based on the exhaustion of resources and the degradation of nature. On the other hand, they did not accurately foresee capital's ability to restructure itself in the face of `natural scarcities' and to conserve resources and prevent or clean up pollution (ineffective as these measures often are). This is doubtless because they failed to understand that the concentration and centralization of capital results in many cases in the internalization of some `negative externalities' to protect overall profitability. And also because they did not (and could not) foresee the importance of social movements in preventing damage to nature and/or restoring harmed nature. (O'Connor 1993b: 12-13) The question remains, how should we approach these "external" contradictions and mediations? If capitalist production is inextricably infused with natural and cultural negotiations, and the politics of ecological and cultural defense and reconstruction, how can we begin to approach these natural, cultural, and political mediations of production and its consequences?


Marx began his abstract analysis of capitalism with an investigation of the most abstract microcosm of the mode of production, the commodity. The approach to the inter-mediations between nature, culture, and capital presented here does much the same thing. As a partial result, the presentation will begin leaning towards the objective and ecological sides of the question, gradually being extended into more subjective, historical, and cultural moments. Capitalist nature may be provisionally be defined as everything that is not produced as a commodity but that is treated as if it is a commodity. This formulation owes more to Karl Polanyi than to Karl Marx. Polanyi defined `labor' and `land' as make-believe or fictitious commodities. `Man under the name of labor, nature under the name of land, were made available for sale There was a market in labor as well as in land, and supply and demand in either was regulated by the height of wages and rents, respectively; the fiction that labor and land were produced for sale was consistently upheld. (O'Connor 1993a: 1) For Marx, the categories which parallel Polanyi's fictitious commodities, "labor" and "land," are "external physical conditions," "personal conditions," and "communal, general conditions" of production. Here, these will be referred to as 1) ecological conditions, 2) personal conditions, and 3) communal conditions. The three categories contribute to the production of an environmental Marxism, theoretically more comprehensive than an ecological Marxism. One way of looking at the move from Polanyi's two terms to Marx's three is to see "land" as having been broken into ecological and cultural components while "labor" remains relatively undifferentiated. It is not difficult to see how the three capitalist conditions of production are fictitious commodities, neither produced nor reproduced for sale on the market. Ecologies and "natural laws" are not, never have been, and can never be produced for sale. Neither people nor their laborpower are produced or reproduced for sale on the market. Finally, neither communal infrastructures nor cultural inter-subjectivity are produced or reproduced for sale on the market.


All three conditions of production, in their objective and subjective moments exist independent of market structures, no matter how much they are treated as commodities. Because [conditions of production are] not produced and reproduced in ways conforming to the law of value, [their] price... cannot be explained in terms of its exchange value. Strictly defined, [conditions of production have] no exchange value. There is no guarantee that [they] even will be available in the form of a fictitious commodity, much less that [they] will be reproduced under conditions which permit or favor capitalist production and accumulation. (O'Connor 1993a: 2) Comparative advantage, scientific and technical rents, the labor market, and ground rents are supposed by (neo-)classical economists to allocate conditions of production within the market. Yet, historically specific geographic locations, patents, monopolies and monopsonies, and the relative power of capitalist fractions and sectors all multiply infuse the (re)production and availability of conditions of production to individual capitals. The relative autonomy of each condition and the political mediations of their (re)production demands a less deterministic approach to materialist theories of and methods of and for the analysis of capitalism than has traditionally been the case. Further, if social labor is simultaneously a capitalist force and relation of production, simultaneously objective and subjective, simultaneously infused with cooperation and domination, and neither produced nor reproduced for sale on the market, the same may be true of ecological and communal conditions as it is of personal conditions organized as social labor. For Marx and traditional theorists of historical materialism, conditions of production have been largely understood as objective forces of production. Having broadened the meaning of social labor, it is not difficult to see how personal conditions of production are forces and relations of production. Human beings are materially separable from the laborpower fictitiously sold on the labor market and are necessarily reproduced outside of the workplace through


specific cultural forms, modes of representation, status hierarchies, sex and gender relations, dietary proscription, and property and legal structures: all of which are necessary and necessarily imported into production along with the laborpower to be expended. These (re)production relations "may or may not be compatible with the reproduction of those conditions defined as productive forces" particularly given the rapid pace of technical change, productive reorganization, and market crises associated with capitalism as a mode of production. Ecological conditions and communal conditions are equally forces and relations of production. Ecological conditions are clearly forces of production, and less clearly relations of production. As relations of production, ecological conditions can be viewed in two simple ways. As has been made particularly clear by critical theorists, in their attacks on empiricist and the structures of enlightenment thought, and new social studies researchers, in their anthropological and post-structuralist analyses of scientific practices, scientific and technical relations are inextricably imbued with inherited and immediate power relations, social interests, and socially situated research and development priorities. Secondly, in the modern world, the reproduction of the ecological commons, capital's access to "nature," and the regulation of the effects on ecological reproduction of capitalist production are all mediated by legislative and bureaucratic bodies within the state. Combined, ecological reproduction, capitalist production, and scientific development are all part and parcel of, and dependent upon specific forms of capitalist social relations. Outside of capitalist production, in the relatively autonomous realms of ecological auto-reproduction, maintenance, or evolution, cultural processes and community infrastructures are also active. Communal conditions are more clearly production relations, and somewhat less clearly productive forces, depending on one's proclivities and background. Objectively, social


infrastructures enable production through transportation and communication systems, waste disposal, and any number of state-funded research and development projects, whether academic or cooperatively public-private in character. Subjectively, cultural norms and mores, legal presumptions and processes, gender and sexual statuses, race relations, and religious affiliations, among many others, are reproduced outside of the loci of capitalist production and yet dramatically mediate corporate cooperation, rates of exploitation, and forms of political mobilization. Earlier it was shown that Marx theorized an "inner" contradiction between the imposition of ever more efficient forces of production such that greater surplus-labor could be extracted for potential realization as surplus-value in the market and relations of production which produced an ever more superfluous and/or un(der-)employed working class incapable of purchasing the ever-more efficiently produced commodities. Put another way, the aggregate consequence of cost-cutting by individual capitals was understood to produce an overall decline in demand such that an overproduction, or realization, crisis tendency lay at the heart of the capitalist mode of production. A more complex view of social labor, one in which the workplace and political organizing was understood as more importantly culturally and ideologically mediated, emerged as a response to the disparate experiences of workers and theorists attempting to understand a complex world which did not fit the relatively simple theory just presented. The further, ecological, extension of Marxism just presented argues for an even more complex picture, one which holds within it an "outer", or "second," contradiction associated with the conditions of production and their relation to capitalist forces and relations of production. In short, the second contradiction thesis argues that the cost-cutting and externalization inherent in the economic strategies of individual capitals degrades the relatively autonomous spaces and


times upon which the reproduction of the conditions of production depends. Given that commodities cannot be produced without healthy ecological, personal, and communal conditions, pre-production problems are generated. The aggregate consequence of the degradation of the conditions of production is to raise the costs of production for capital as a whole. Where as the first, "inner," contradiction generates an overproduction of capital, this second, "outer," contradiction generates an underproduction crisis. Economic and environmental crises are thus inextricably linked. The first contradiction of capitalism strikes at capital from the demand side; it expresses an over-production of capital. It states that when individual capitals lower costs with the aim of defending or restoring profits, the unintended effect is to reduce total market demand for commodities, and [to] lower profits. The second contradiction strikes from the cost side; it expresses an under-production of capital. It states that when individual capitals lower costs, i.e., externalize costs onto nature (or labor or the urban) with the aim of defending or restoring profits, the unintended effect is to raise costs on other capitals (at the limit, capital as a whole), and [to] lower profits. The first manifests itself in its purest form as a realization crisis; the second in its purest form as a liquidity crisis. (O'Connor 1990: 2) The historical interplay of these two tendencies, which may exacerbate or moderate each other, further deepens the analytic scope and complexity of environmental Marxism over and above traditional historical materialism. If conditions of production are forces and relations, it would seem that there are at least two analytic moments in their reproduction. One moment in the reproduction of conditions of production would be that associated with the irreducible autonomy of each condition. The second moment would be associated with the mediated, regulated, or degraded reproduction of conditions as a result of relations with human activity. If the defining characteristic of conditions of production is that they are treated as commodities but are in fact not produced or reproduced as commodities, the question arises whether there is a particular social agency which mediates


between the autonomous reproduction of conditions and the reproduction of capital. That agency is the state. "[W]hether the production conditions are produced by the state, the family or community, or by capital itself, the state invariably regulates their production in direct and indirect ways; the state also regulates access to, use of, and exit from the production conditions on the part of individual capitals." (O'Connor 1993a: 8) The state, in the best of all situations, is able to organize the reproduction of, supply of, and exit from conditions of production for capital in a manner publicly felt to be `legitimate' and privately felt to be `productive' by capital. If the bureaucratic state fails in this dual project of legitimate and productive reproduction, there emerges the possibility not only of economic crisis but political legitimation crisis. Economic crisis combined with successful legitimation can produce fiscal crisis within the state as increased demands are made by civil society for bureaucratic programs in support of the healthy reproduction of ecological, personal, and communal conditions just as less tax revenue finds its way into the state's coffers. However, governmental protection, regulation, and restoration of conditions of production directly or indirectly raises costs of production by constraining the flexibility of capital's ability to adjust to changing economic conditions. Further, during economic crises capital makes political demands for a lowering of "the tax burden." Sustained fiscal crisis can, then, generate legitimation crises within both the broader civil society and within the capitalist class as social movements struggle against economic interests within the political arena over the maintenance or restructuring of the conditions of production. The key is that new social movements struggle to protect ecological, personal and communal conditions of (re)production, or life (M. O'Connor 1991) from the recklessness of capital and the irrationalities of state policy as working against the restructuring of conditions, and relations between them and capital and the state, by capital and/or the state.


Both the particular form of the political system and the contradictory role of the state as a social arbiter of legitimation and accumulation with internal fiscal crisis tendencies engenders, among other things, a set of relatively autonomous political effects on the protection and/or restoration of conditions of production. (O'Connor 1993a: 10) A functionalist theory of the capitalist state which attempts to establish certain definite relationships between state policy and the conditions of production thus needs to be modified to take into account the fact that the state is a bureaucratic state, established within a particular formal political system, hence is `relatively autonomous,' i.e., subject to its own internal tendencies and contradictions. More specifically, the three conditions of production are themselves produced and reproduced within certain relationships, i.e., they are produced and/or regulated by the state. (O'Connor 1993a: 11) Further: The supply of production conditions and/or capital's access to these conditions is not only bureaucratized but also politicized. A functionalist account of state policy thus needs to be further modified to take into account the fact that the bureaucratic state operates within civil society with its ideological, social, and political conflicts and compromises. (O'Connor 1993a: 14) The complexity of this situation in which the many levels of state legislative bodies and bureaucratic agencies negotiate the legitimate promotion of accumulation through the partial and uneven regulation and protection of three categories of relatively autonomous production conditions is extraordinary. This complexity also suggests why the reasons for particular state activity are often inscrutable and apparently contradictory. Uncoordinated agencies responsible for particular components of specific conditions are quite likely to produce contradictory policies with respect to the reproduction of ecological, social, and communal conditions. That these policies accrue institutional momentum over time, during which differential levels of economic, political, and fiscal crisis affect different levels of state operations deepens arguments against functionalist and statist approaches.


The political negotiations between social movements and the state over the regulation, protection, and restoration of conditions of production is a dialogue saturated with claims about aggregate and universal interests, e.g., global nature, the people as a whole, and communities in general. Zero sum arguments within these struggles possess weakened legitimacy, despite dominant ideological support for economic growth and individual freedom. In part, this means that social "struggles over the conditions of production are universally regarded as more legitimate that workplace struggles or even conflict within the market-place." (O'Connor 1993a: 16) Interestingly, however, the new social movements which have forced the expansion of Marxist discourses into the realms of conditions of production centrally privilege "difference" and "site specificity." These new social movements often explicitly reject the totalizing discourses which have, by under-playing conditions of production, traditionally devalued struggles over the (re)production of ecological, personal, and communal conditions. However, because of the structural location and role of the state as the agency responsible for the protection, regulation, and restoration of conditions of production, new social movements have been universally forced to address state agencies and legislative bodies. The interplay between these social movements and the government has largely been about access to bureaucratic process and over public distribution of information. The claim here, however, is that there is a universal demand implicit or latent in new social struggles, namely, the demand to democratize the state (which regulates the provision of production conditions), as well as the family, local community, etc. In fact, no way exists for diverse social struggles defending the integrity of particular sites to universalize themselves, hence win, and, at the same time retain their diversity, excepting through struggles for the democratic state and also by sublating particular struggles and the labor movement, recognizing that we have in common, namely, cooperative labor, thereby theorizing the unity of social labor. (O'Connor 1993a: 20)


The reproduction of bio-regional ecologies; people's bodies, families and psyches; and community infrastructures and cultural practices are necessarily, under capitalism, the politicized practice of the cooperative reproduction of social labor. The extra-economic moments necessary for the reproduction of production conditions are inextricably linked. The reproduction of the working class depends on the healthy reproduction of people dependent on the healthy reproduction of ecological and cultural places, spaces, and processes. Ecological conditions, personal conditions, and communal conditions in that order have been more or less fictitiously capitalized as productive throughputs upon which capital draws for production. As throughputs, production conditions can be understood as taps, or spigots, used by capital in production. However, all three conditions are also treated as sinks into which capital externalizes costs. The sinks upon which the reproduction of conditions depends remain highly uncapitalized. As a sink, the spaces and times necessary for the reproduction of conditions of production more or less remain a part of the commons, the political responsibility for the reproduction of which lies with civil society and the state. (O'Connor 1991: 12) Taps are fictitiously disposable private property whereas sinks are really fundamental commons. Combining the economic and extra-economic moments in the last two paragraphs, it becomes clear that struggles over "production conditions are class issues, though they are also more than class issues." (O'Connor 1993a: 22) Class-based opposition to new social movements which focus on production conditions comes from capital. Intra-class based opposition to new social movements, more often than not, comes from privileged sectors of the working class, stereotypically white and male, indicating the broader-than-class nature of struggles over conditions. Given the relatively autonomous "internal" developmental tendencies associated with the reproduction of 1) capital and 2) conditions of production, it should be clear that all other things


Sixteen Dialectics Within and Between Ecological conditions and Capital

1. Ecological conditions constrain Capital because Ecological conditions enable Capital 2. Ecological conditions constrain Capital because Ecological conditions enable Ecological conditions 3. Ecological conditions constrain Ecological conditions because Ecological conditions enable Capital 4. Ecological conditions constrain Ecological conditions because Ecological conditions enable Ecological conditions. 5. Ecological conditions enable Capital because Ecological conditions constrain Capital 6. Ecological conditions enable Capital because Ecological conditions constrain Ecological conditions 7. Ecological conditions enable Ecological conditions because Ecological conditions constrain Capital 8. Ecological conditions enable Ecological conditions because Ecological conditions constrain Ecological conditions 9. Capital constrains Capital because Capital enables Capital 10. Capital constrains Capital because Capital enables Ecological conditions 11. Capital constrains Ecological conditions because Capital enables Capital 12. Capital constrains Ecological conditions because Capital enables Ecological conditions 13. Capital enables Capital because Capital constrains Capital 14. Capital enables Capital because Capital constrains Ecological conditions 15. Capital enables Ecological conditions because Capital constrains Capital 16. Capital enables Ecological conditions because Capital constrains Ecological conditions

being the same these two moments of social life should sometimes enable and sometimes constrain the development of each other. Of course, different sectors within capital and different levels of reproduction within each condition of production will also enable and constrain their own internal development. Schematically, three 16-point tables of dialectical relations emerge from an investigation of possible relations within and between capital and its conditions of production: Each of the 40 dialectical relations (four of the second and third sets are redundant) just suggested are, of course, politically and bureaucratically mediated by the state, making the account all that much more complex.4 The point of this last exercise is to argue that simple theories of social change and environmental transformation are likely to be extremely limited in their applicability and pertinence to material investigations. While the manifold and multi-level influences just presented are never evenly pertinent, the combined and uneven development of capitalism and its

See O'Connor (1993a) for a schematic and textual investigation of 15 potential contradictions within and between the production of conditions of production, conceived as a whole. 26


Sixteen Dialectics Within and Between Personal Conditions and Capital

1. Personal Conditions constrain Capital because Personal Conditions enable Capital 2. Personal Conditions constrain Capital because Personal Conditions enable Personal Conditions 3. Personal Conditions constrain Personal Conditions because Personal Conditions enable Capital 4. Personal Conditions constrain Personal Conditions because Personal Conditions enable Personal Conditions 5. Personal Conditions enable Capital because Personal Conditions constrain Capital 6. Personal Conditions enable Capital because Personal Conditions constrain Personal Conditions 7. Personal Conditions enable Personal Conditions because Personal Conditions constrain Capital 8. Personal Conditions enable Personal Conditions because Personal Conditions constrain Personal Conditions 9. Capital constrains Capital because Capital enables Capital 10. Capital constrains Capital because Capital enables Personal Conditions 11. Capital constrains Personal Conditions because Capital enables Capital 12. Capital constrains Personal Conditions because Capital enables Personal Conditions 13. Capital enables Capital because Capital constrains Capital 14. Capital enables Capital because Capital constrains Personal Conditions 15. Capital enables Personal Conditions because Capital constrains Capital 16. Capital enables Personal Conditions because Capital constrains Personal Conditions

conditions of production is never the result of a single relation. In the last analysis, it is the combined force of all economic, social, political, and bureaucratic developments and conflicts which determine the develop-ment of particular production conditions and their relationships to one another, thus the connection between these conditions and the processes of capitalist production and accumulation. (O'Connor 1993a: 15) To this it need only be added that the development of particular production conditions combine to affect economic, social, political and bureaucratic developments and conflicts as well.

The Sociology of Agriculture

The theory of two contradictory capitalist tendencies can be used to better understand the recent emergence of literature within the sociology of agriculture. Emerging as part of the academic study and institutionalization of social movements after the 1960s, the sociologists of agriculture have played an integral part in the introduction of ecological perspectives, gender and race analyses, labor struggles, and community restructuring (including analysis of extra-agricultural production and reproduction strategies) to the theoretically and methodologically moribund discipline of rural sociology. (Newby 1980)


Sixteen Dialectics Within and Between Communal Conditions and Capital

1. Communal Conditions constrain Capital because Communal Conditions enable Capital 2. Communal Conditions constrain Capital because Communal Conditions enable Communal Conditions 3. Communal Conditions constrain Communal Conditions because Communal Conditions enable Capital 4. Communal Conditions constrain Communal Conditions because Communal Conditions enable Communal Conditions 5. Communal Conditions enable Capital because Communal Conditions constrain Capital 6. Communal Conditions enable Capital because Communal Conditions constrain Communal Conditions 7. Communal Conditions enable Communal Conditions because Communal Conditions constrain Capital 8. Communal Conditions enable Communal Conditions because Communal Conditions constrain Communal Conditions 9. Capital constrains Capital because Capital enables Capital 10. Capital constrains Capital because Capital enables Communal Conditions 11. Capital constrains Communal Conditions because Capital enables Capital 12. Capital constrains Communal Conditions because Capital enables Communal Conditions 13. Capital enables Capital because Capital constrain Capital 14. Capital enables Capital because Capital constrain Communal Conditions 15. Capital enables Communal Conditions because Capital constrain Capital 16. Capital enables Communal Conditions because Capital constrain Communal Conditions

Like most of the experiences in post-Parsonian sociological analysis, these tendencies within rural sociology and the sociology of agriculture have contributed to a fragmentation of the discipline as researchers have blazed their own paths introducing new categories of analysis to the sub-disciplines. However, the other side of the fragmentation and differentiation has been an expanding emphasis on multi-disciplinary work which continues to generate exciting results. Perhaps the greatest ferment within rural and agricultural sociology was associated with the agricultural component of the modes of production debate during the second half of the 1970s and the first half of the 1980s. The agricultural component of this debate focused on the search to understand the comparatively slow penetration of agriculture by industrial capital, as well as the complexities of the transformation of peasant societies in the third world, or the South, as their nations struggled for independence and were integrated into the world economy. Economists, sociologists, anthropologists, and geographers were all active throughout the period.


It is possible to organize the many of the central contributions to the modes of production debate along lines related to conditions of production. Among the innovations introduced to the sociology of agriculture during the debate were new perspectives on the importance of ecological obstacles to the capitalization of agriculture, renewed concerns over the form and content of agricultural divisions of labor, and new approaches to the characteristics of rural and peasant communities and ideologies. The parallels are clear in their relation to the conditions of production. Further, the investigative and theoretical strategies of the many participants were often historical in character. In part, this was the case because the intellectual roots of debate were well known and because the spatial and temporal character of social change was of increasing importance to sociological theory in general. In terms of the ecological enablements and constraints to the capitalist penetration of agriculture, much of the focus was oriented to questions of technological change. This represented a continuation of rural sociology's long concern with techno-scientific diffusionadoption as well as a translation of the traditional Marxist concern with forces of production. Mann and Dickinson (1978, 1987a,b), Mann (1990), Goodman and Redclift (1985), and Goodman, Sorj and Wilkinson (1987) focused most directly on the question of natural obstacles to the penetration of rural agricultural production by industrial capitals. In these works the discrete historical resistance of ecological conditions to unified capitalist agro-industrial forces of production is understood as the central contributing factor to the persistence of independent rural agricultural producers, whether understood as propertied laborers, capitalized family farms, and/or simple commodity producers. Historically, industrial capitals are understood to have incrementally appropriated and commodified components of the rural labor process and, only


recently through biotechnological innovations, come to be able to substitute industrial production for relatively independent forms of rural agricultural production. Ecological conditions were problematized in these accounts as relatively autonomous moments pertinent to agricultural commodity production relations. However, their pertinence and resistance remained within the realm of nature as a tap, a tap perhaps difficult to open, but a tap nonetheless. Nature's common property characteristics as a sink for non-commodified postproduction products remained largely outside these analyses. Perhaps most importantly, by focusing on forces of production, nature and economics, both sets of authors underplayed the role of state to the point where they have seriously overplayed the role of nature.5 Within these texts there is little or no theorization of the state's role in legitimating capitalist accumulation and economic crises, nor the state's regulatory mediations between industrial capitals and the conditions of production. Neither group of authors extensively addresses the repeated overproduction crises within the agricultural sector, despite explosive population growth and extraordinarily extensive geographic development.6 Not only the populist and land stewardship arguments generated by the agricultural sector to legitimate state policies in support of relatively independent growers and farmers, but also state policies in support of massive infrastructural and community development projects, agricultural research, immigration and labor importation policies, price supports, and aggressive export and tariff programs served to contribute powerfully to the persistence of relatively

It is important to note that, in other publications, these authors have addressed questions of state policies, and, in the case of Goodman and Redclift (1985), the consequences of and for the development of personal and communal conditions of the historical and technological subsumption of agriculture by industrial capital. The advantage of the second contradiction thesis is that it sets the stage for situating these textually distinct works in a unified and flexible framework. A central point of this part of the chapter is that, without the second contradiction thesis, agricultural and rural sociology is likely to continue to generate fragmented scholarship across the sub-disciplines of which tragically few scholars will tread. 6 See Williams' (1969), Cronon (1991) and Page and Walker (1991) on the contests between different sectors of capital as they relate to geographies of 19th century US development. 30


independent capitalized family farms. Absent these legislative and bureaucratic programs, the industrial appropriation and commodification of agricultural labor processes would likely have quickly produced capitalist divisions of labor in rural fields transnationally, as it did throughout the west coast of the United States during the 20th century. Without these political mediations the dislocations of the Depression would have occurred decades earlier, and the slowly `disappearing middle' would likely have been gone long ago. Friedland and Barton (1975), Friedland, Barton and Thomas (1981), Berlan and Lewontin (1986), and Kloppenberg (1988) represent the key contributors to the understanding of the state's role in the production of agricultural forces of production, their distribution and privatization as well as their consequences for social relations in agricultural production. In these accounts, ecological conditions remain relatively passive. In these accounts of the mechanization of lettuce and tomato harvesting and the evolution of hybrid and biotechnological seed production, the focus lies on the dialectics of agricultural social relations and productive forces as they relate to the public and private manipulation of nature through science technology. Rejecting reductionism and instrumental theories, these accounts of the historical s bureaucratic structure of the state insist that the state be viewed as the rite of social and scientific struggle over the agricultural content of forces of production and the subsequent forms of production relations. Whereas nature is treated less as a barrier to capitalist penetration of agriculture in these accounts, the relative autonomy of ecological conditions remains underinvestigated, as generally are the ecological consequences of public and private research assumptions. Again, the ability of agricultural capitals and the state to treat extra-productive ecological conditions as a sink for post-production products and throughputs remains underinvestigated as well.


Bird's (1987) materialist and post-structuralist account of the social construction and ecological negotiation of agricultural science and environmental problems suggests a means by which the development of forces of production inextricable from (both scientific and commodity) production relations and site-specific ecological conditions can be more thoroughly investigated. For Bird (1987: 259): Science is engaged with nature in negotiating reality itself. The part of reality abstracted for representation depends on what scientists engaged in that negotiation believe they are doing.... Nature's role in that negotiation takes the form of actively creating something materially new and of resisting or accommodating the range of metaphorical and theoretical imaginings within which it is approached.... It becomes clear why `science' is fundamentally no different from every other kind of social productive activity-all of them entail an active socio-ecological negotiation for the realities, both material and metaphorical, that we live. Similarly: Environmental problems are not the result of a mistaken understanding of nature. Rather they are the result of mis/taken (unfortunate or ill-chosen) negotiations with the constructions of nature in the shaping of new socio-ecological orderings of reality.... Environmental problems represent situations in which some segments of society engage in [negotiated] practices [with nature] that adversely affect other members of society and have the potential to injure the future quality and survivability of the planet. (Bird 1987: 261) Here, the historical generation of forces of production is dialectically infused with social structures and the state of existing conditions of production both in the production of science and the ecological, personal, and communal consequences of science-based, accumulation-oriented, productive activity. (Kloppenberg 1988) This approach operates only at the level of scientific negotiations with nature. While the structure of this argument could be extended (and has been extended by post-structuralist theories of individual and collective bodies materially and ideologically "marked" by history) to the ideological and material renegotiation of personal and communal conditions, without the inclusion of theoretical insights as to the interaction of these


negotiations with legislative and bureaucratic agencies and also with capitalist development and economic crisis the analytic scope and power of the resulting conclusions remains limited. Historically, the enablements and constraints on agricultural capital associated with personal conditions of production have been studied and publicized by progressive labor advocates. For example the work of Taylor (1928; 1943), McWilliams (1939), Fisher (1953), Jamieson (1945), and Galarza (1956; 1964) directly addressed the working and living conditions of agricultural workers and their various struggles to organize. To a great extent the same situation continues today within the sociology of agriculture: in their recent text, Mooney and Majka (1995) compare and contrast historical farmer and farm labor movements. However, as a general rule researchers working within the sociology of agriculture have not investigated the inter-combination of labor issues and personal reproduction with ecological and community movements. Far more work has been done on the manifold pluriactive (farm combined with nonfarm income) strategies of household reproduction associated with growers than has been done on the changing reproduction strategies of migratory seasonal farm workers. Farm worker strategies have been forced to evolve as technological innovation, gender divisions of labor, and state and federal regulations of agriculture and immigration have been restructured. In large part the under-investigation of labor and field worker reproduction strategies is the result of the United Field Worker's effective monopolization of farm labor organization and political struggle during the 1970s, and during the Union's decline through the 1980s. As a result of the UFW's monopoly, there is little in the way of social movements and/or struggles to


investigate then that presents qualitatively new analytic moments not been previously presented.7 Research on personal conditions in agriculture has expanded to include historical and immediate accounts of the experience of farm women and female farm workers as part of the expansion of feminist scholarship and the increasing number of women employed on mechanized harvesting equipment. (Friedland 1991b; Sachs 1983) As noted above, another area of expanded research, at the intersection of agricultural and rural sociology, has emerged through the investigation of pluriactivity, the combination of sexual and age-based divisions of family income strategies within and outside of agriculture. Further, increases in the international migration of temporary and seasonal agricultural workers, individually and as families, has been analyzed in its relation to the impermanence and multiple-job holding strategies of industrial workers, particularly in Europe. (Pugliese 1991) Finally, at least in the case of California, the analysis of the new forms of farm labor contracting which have begun to emerge with the effective collapse of the UFW has been initiated. (Rosenberg 1992) The analysis of communal conditions in agricultural regions has largely been left to rural sociologists by sociologists of agriculture. The work of Sonya Salaman (1980), Patrick H. Mooney (1988), and some of the work of Harriet Friedmann (1978; 1980) has investigated collective strategies, identities, and ideologies for the reproduction of relative independent agricultural producers. The majority of the work on communal infrastructures has been done by rural sociologists, increasingly focusing on non-agricultural forms of production and


The fragmented and unorganized oversupply of agricultural workers available to capitalist agricultural producers in combination with diverse, regionally specific, and commodity dependent divisions of labor has engendered a situation in which the immiseration and desperate reproduction strategies of such workers and their families has developed as the primary concern of agricultural sociologists focusing on labor. Yet, the conditions under which seasonal migratory field workers toil and live have been cyclically "rediscovered" in journalistic accounts every decade or so for seventy or more years and do not present much in the way of original analytic focus to contemporary researchers. As a result, the inter-relationships within and between working conditions, living conditions, communal resources, modes of identification, and the role of state agencies in maintaining these conditions has been left relatively uninvestigated over the last twenty years or so. 34

accumulation in rural areas as the number of farms declines and the percentage of rural income derived from agriculture concurrently falls. (Luloff and Swanson 1990; Swanson 1988) The role of local, county, state, and federal agencies in extra-agricultural rural development is an important component of this work, though research to date has been more descriptive than theoretical. Within the sociology and political economy of agriculture, then, connections can be made between methods and theories of historically discrete moments in agricultural production and its variable conditions. Using the theory of the second contradiction of capitalism as a heuristic means by which to make those connections allows for the construction of multi-methodological and multi-disciplinary research projects which address the totality of regional forms of capitalist agricultural development (and contradiction) in relation to the increasingly global political economic mode of agricultural development and crisis. This study of the Imperial Valley represents a simple first stab at generating such sorts of projects as research from many disciplines have been collected and inter-related in an historical sociological presentation.




31 pages

Report File (DMCA)

Our content is added by our users. We aim to remove reported files within 1 working day. Please use this link to notify us:

Report this file as copyright or inappropriate


You might also be interested in

`Insubstantial' Residential Structures at Teotihuacan, Mexico
Microsoft Word - JGH-A-Turchin5.doc
Dr. Yuba Raj Khatiwada.pmd