By Antonio A.R Ioris
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Additional resources for Agriculture, Environment and Development: International Perspectives on Water, Land and Politics
In historico-geographical terms, the financialization of the agri-food sector has provided a solution to the combination of the production and plunder spheres of capitalism. Financialization is also organically associated with spatial displacement, especially considering that neoliberalized agriculture is, above all, about the redistribution of value from the under-reproduced global periphery to the overconsuming Western core (Araghi 2009). Sharing the turbulent experience of most other Latin American countries, the Brazilian national state initiated a programme of neoliberal reforms in 1990 centred on monetary stabilization, privatization, and budget controls (Ioris and Ioris 2013).
Emerging environmental awareness and public mobilization, particularly in the political North, also added to the pressure on national governments and multilateral agencies to gradually shift from single engineering initiatives to more comprehensive responses. Informed by concepts such as ‘sustainable development’ and ‘systemic thinking’, new ways of dealing with water problems started to shape the global water agenda. Public policies have been particularly influenced by the goals of integrated water resources management (IWRM), which include the formulation of ‘holistic’ solutions to water management problems, the reconciliation of multiple demands, and, crucially, appreciation in the economic value of water (Mitchell 2005).
For the resource economists of that period, nature contained a large reserve of raw materials freely available for human exploitation; water was seen as abundant and, consequently, there was minimal need to limit its use (Adam Smith, for example, considered water to be beyond economic value; he described it as a ‘free good’ and, for that reason, distinct from landed property). A few decades later, David Ricardo pointed out that if water existed in ‘moderate abundance’ and could be appropriated, it would then afford a rent similar to land (Ricardo 1962 ).