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Farm enterprises as self-organizing systems: A new transdisciplinary framework for studying farm enterprises?

Noe, Egon and Alrøe, Hugo Fjelsted (2003) Farm enterprises as self-organizing systems: A new transdisciplinary framework for studying farm enterprises? International Journal of Sociology of Agriculture and Food, 11 (1), pp. 3-14.

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Document available online at: http://www.otago.ac.nz/nzpg/csafe/ijsaf/archive/context/archive.htm


The growing attention to sustainable food production and multifunctional agriculture calls for a multidisciplinary or transdisciplinary research and development perspective on farming, which is able to grasp the environmental, social, technical, and financial aspects of a farm and the dynamic relationship between the farm enterprises and the surrounding world. Our thesis is that a transdisciplinary approach needs to build on a working ontology that goes beyond the epistemology of each discipline and that is not just pieced together of the ontologies connected to these different epistemologies. Based on a review of three prevailing theoretical frameworks within the field of agro-sociology: The farming styles approach, the Bawden approach, and Conway’s agroecosystem approach, we argue that these existing theories do not offer such a theoretical framework. The claim of this paper is that a new concept of a farm enterprise as a self-organizing social system, which combines ideas from Actor-Network theory (ANT) and Luhmann’s theory of social systems, can serve as a useful ontological platform for understanding a farm-enterprise as an entity independent of a scientific observer.
In this framework, each farm is understood as a self-organizing node in a complex of heterogeneous socio-technical networks of food, supply, knowledge, technology, etc. This implies that a farm has to be understood as the way in which these network relationships are organised by the farm as a self-organizing social system. Among all the different possible ways in which to interact with the surrounding world, the system has to select a coherent strategy in order to make the farming processes possible at all.
It will be discussed how this framework may add to the understanding of the continuous development of a heterogeneity of farm strategies and contribute to a more comprehensive view of the fields of regulation and extension.

EPrint Type:Journal paper
Keywords:farm enterprise, self-organizing systems, actor-network theory, autopoietic social systems
Subjects: Knowledge management > Research methodology and philosophy > Systems research and participatory research
Farming Systems
Research affiliation: Denmark > DARCOF II (2000-2005) > V.1 (SYNERGY) Coordination and synergy
Denmark > AU - Aarhus University > AU, DJF - Faculty of Agricultural Sciences
Related Links:http://www.otago.ac.nz/nzpg/csafe/ijsaf/
Deposited By: Noe, Ph.D Egon
ID Code:325
Deposited On:11 Jan 2003
Last Modified:12 Apr 2010 07:27
Document Language:English
Refereed:Peer-reviewed and accepted
Additional Publishing Information:A previous version of this paper has been presented at XVth ISA World Congress of sociology, RC40 Sociology of agriculture and food, Brisbane, Australia, 7 – 13th July 2002.

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