Reclaiming livelihoods: initial steps to re-institute a viable socio-economic base for living in country settings

Anthony Hogan, Bruce Wilson, Douglas Baker, Lorelle Burton, Laurie Buys, Michael Cuthill

Research output: A Conference proceeding or a Chapter in BookChapterpeer-review


A key feature of this text is that it unpacks the way neoliberal or free trade policies have been applied to agriculture and, in turn, living in country Australia over the past 40 years. Chapter 18 contains an overview of these changes and initiatives. This book sets out not just to lay before the reader the many impacts of this change process, but also to open up a new way forward. This process started in Chapter 18, which explores the issues of a governmental approach to change. This chapter focuses on responses that can be initiated from a community perspective. But before outlining the capacity for progress on these issues we must first identify the heart of the problem – our concern with the intensification of globalised free trade and what this means for the continued viability of country living. At the heart of this concern is that the changing way in which globalising enterprises operate increasingly constrains, at a local level, opportunities for everyday families and small businesses to maintain their livelihoods and communities. Much of the angst underpinning change in country settings centres on the extent to which cultures and community can be maintained. For Chris Hedges (2010; noting the work of Polyani) – unfettered capitalism results in the death of society. And so, this question of balancing the interface of economy and society is at the heart of this project. We revisit the question of what is the purpose of economy, if it is not to support peoples’ livelihoods? This is the issue that we need to unpack somewhat before proceeding with the remainder of this closing chapter. Free trade policies were designed to optimise the capacity for industry to maximise their return on investment, based on the philosophy of ‘buy low, sell high’, within a context of increasing globalised markets (Carr and Kefalas 2009). With the gradual removal of tariffs, producers who could conduct their businesses on a global scale were positioned to benefit. They were able to shift productive processes to places where they could cheaply access the factors of production (land, labour and capital), while being able to sell their products back into western markets at or near the usual price. Patel’s (2007) study of coffee sales is a case in point. Yet as Carr and Kefalas have made evident, these kinds of policies were always going to be socially problematic, particularly for small family producers.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRural and Regional Futures
EditorsAnthony Hogan, Michelle Young
Place of PublicationAbingdon and New York
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9781315775333
ISBN (Print)9781138025073
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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