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Neoliberalism, financialization and rural change

Working Group 20: Neoliberalism, financialization and rural change

Hilde Bjørkhaug [1], Hugh Campell [2], Geoffrey Lawrence [3], Bruce Muirhead [4], Sarah Ruth Sippel [5]
1: Centre for Rural Research, Norway, 2: University of Otago, New Zealand, 3: University of Queensland, Australia, 4: University of Waterloo, Canada, 5: University of Leipzig, Germany

 Neoliberal policy settings have led to the deregulation of finance and, as a consequence, have contributed to what has been termed ‘financialization’ – the increased presence and influence of the finance sector throughout economies of the world. Importantly, the food and farming sectors appear to be viewed as important targets – new asset classes – from which profits can be made. Globally, there is evidence that hedge funds and private equity firms are purchasing food companies, merchant banks and sovereign wealth funds are responsible for large-scale land acquisitions, and supermarkets are becoming involved in an array of financial activities including the provision of credit and banking. Scholars have argued that the finance sector is restructuring food and farming on a global scale. For example, large-scale land purchases by sovereign wealth funds have been implicated in ‘depeasantisation’ as capital seeks land for biofuel, rubber and oil palm production and people are dispossessed. Are similar forces at work in the global north in terms of private equity firms purchasing land for investment purposes owned by those who could be termed family farmers? And, what other impacts are being experienced? Is the global restructuring of agriculture generating greater productivity gains for farmers? Is the world becoming more food secure as a consequence of financialization? Are there case studies which demonstrate that social, economic or environmental benefits accrue to those regions and nations that encourage the flow of foreign capital into food and farming? What are the effects of these changes in rural communities?

The aims of this session are to: establish the connection between neoliberalism, financialization and rural change; provide national-level, as well as local-level, evidence of impacts of financialization; to trace the contours of the global restructuring of food and farming in an era of financialisation; and, to understand – from insights around the globe - how European food and farming industries and rural communities are being reshaped by financial entities.