Evolving Meanings of ‘Principles’ in Agronomic Discourse
E Giller, Ken
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The notion of principles, and the sense that they are different from but closely linked to practices, is deeply rooted in the agronomy literature. However, these terms are currently used by different authors to mean very different things. This paper explores these various uses and meanings. We argue that an understanding of the use of apparently innocuous, everyday words like principles and practices provides a valuable insight into on-going debates, contestation and politics about the future of agriculture and food. In the case of principles, it is important to understand the forms they take, by whom they are proclaimed and for what purpose(s). We find that while most alternative agricultures define themselves through a set of principles, these do not challenge or undermine the scientific principles that underpin mainstream agronomy. Further, we argue that to articulate and proclaim principles is to seek to exercise discursive power. Specifically, proclaiming principles or defining a favoured approach to agriculture by articulating a specific set of principles, is to exert authority, bolster legitimacy and claim a place in a crowded and contested marketplace.