Human-nature interaction and the modern agricultural regime : agricultural practices and environmental ethics
The overall purpose of this study was to find out whether changes in social action or social practices are predicated on, or correspond with changes in ontological assumptions and social normative structures or ethical orientations. Specifically, this study investigated the relationship between a range of farming practices and the two predominant ontological assumptions about human-nature relationship. As well, the study investigated the relationship between the range of farming practices and categories of environmental ethical orientations. The two ontological orientations include the 'externality' assumption, which represent the social understanding that humans interact with nature but are only externally related to nature. The 'internality' assumption, on the other hand, is the understanding that humans are internally related to nature or the physical environment. The study also investigated the role of other structural forces that can shape farming practices. The theoretical orientation that informed this study was Habermas' neo-modernity thesis, which primarily argues that changes in social normative structures, which induces appropriate social action can, and do develop, without changes in ontological assumptions about human-nature relationship. The Habermasian approach thus rejects the reenchantment thesis espoused by constructive postmodernists. In this study Habermas' thesis has been contrasted with the neo-conservative and postmodernist approaches. The study involved two forms of investigation. One aspect of the study involved archival research of Canadian agricultural policy as an overarching background against which contemporary farming practices may be understood. The other aspect of the study involved a survey of farm families living in the south western Saskatchewan section of the Palliser Triangle. The study found a moderate to strong relationship between the 'internality' ontological assumption and alternative farming practices. The 'externality' assumption was more predominant among conventional farmers. This pattern also corresponded with a relatively higher incidence of environmentalism among alternative farming practitioners, with a relatively higher incidence of resourcism among conventional and conventional-alternative farmers. Despite these patterns the study found partial support for the Habermasian thesis. For example, a significant minority of alternative farmers who espouse environmentalist ethics also espouse an 'externality' ontological assumption.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
CommitteeDickinson, Harley D.
Copyright DateSeptember 1997
farmers - Saskatchewan