1st Edition

The Political Economy of the Common Agricultural Policy
Coordinated Capitalism or Bureaucratic Monster?

ISBN 9781003015246
Published March 19, 2020 by Routledge
126 Pages 7 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

What is the balance of the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy more than half a century after its birth? Does it illustrate the virtues of the European model of coordinated capitalism, as opposed to US-style liberal capitalism? Or is it an incoherent set of instruments that exert diverse negative impacts and, like Frankenstein’s monster, seems to have escaped the control of its designers?

The Political Economy of the Common Agricultural Policy does not criticize the CAP from the liberal standpoint that views most public interventions in the economy as bad for efficiency and welfare. The CAP has been costly to Europeans, both as consumers and as taxpayers, and has also generated a number of negative impacts upon third countries, but these costs and impacts have been more moderate than is suggested. This book proposes that the issue with the CAP is not a generic problem of coordinating capitalism but, instead, a more specific problem of low-quality coordination. The text argues that profound reform of the European Union’s institutions and policies is required to counter the rapid rise of a more Eurosceptical state of mind but – in the case of agricultural policy – history casts serious doubts on the capacity of the European network of agriculture-related politicians to lead such a reform.

This key work is essential reading for researchers, graduate students, and master’s level docents of the Common Agricultural Policy and – more broadly – European Union policy and reform.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: The “European model of agriculture" on trial
Chapter 2: What is the CAP about?
Chapter 3: The monster myth
Chapter 4: An even greater myth: coordinated agrarian capitalism
Chapter 5: The political back room
Epilogue: A story to be continued?

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Fernando Collantes is an Associate Professor of Socio-Economic History at the University of Oviedo, Spain. He has published widely on rural development and food systems from a historical perspective. He currently serves as a trustee of the Spanish Economic History Association.


"One of the strengths of this book is that the author writes with considerable clarity about a very complex set of policies. He clearly shows mastery of the details and his arguments are carefully evidenced, but he is also able to focus on the policy as a whole and the broader international context in which it has developed...Overall, this book is a balanced and interesting account that offers fresh perspective and insights. It could be read with benefit by experts on the CAP, but it is also accessible to those approaching the subject for the first time." - Wyn Grant,  Agricultural History

"Fernando Collantes has done a great job of bursting the myths surrounding Europe’s much-discussed Common Agricultural Policy. Examining its effects and evolution with a clinical view, he demonstrates that the CAP is neither the market-distorting and tax-guzzling monster that many economists have made out of it, nor the socially and environmentally responsible approach that the European Commission has promised to its citizens. When all is said and done, the farm policy of the European Union is not strikingly different from that of the United States, and Collantes shows that the ongoing talk in Brussels about a ‘European model of agriculture’ is rhetoric rather than substance." - Niek Koning, Wageningen University

"This book is not just about the CAP, it is about the viability of the EU. Collantes analyses the CAP and its deficiencies to expose the challenges that the European Union has to take up in order to answer its Eurosceptic opponents. His argument is as provocative as it is constructive." Anton Schuurman, Wageningen University

"Observers of the European Union's Common Agricultural Policy often argue that yesterday's CAP explains today's, and possibly tomorrow's. It follows that only a historically-informed analysis can produce a satisfying account of the CAP's successes and failures, and that is what this book provides." - Paul Brassley, University of Exeter

"Too often we analyze the politics of the Common Agricultural Policy in isolation from the broader political context of the European Union. In this important book, Collantes shows us how central the CAP is to both the promise and the pitfalls of the European project. For those interested in the future of Europe, this book is an essential place to start." - Adam Sheingate, Johns Hopkins University

"[A] must-read for anyone whose research and teaching encompass the phenomenon of agricultural policy in the European integration process..The author has applied a broad political-economy theoretical framework, which means that it synthesises knowledge from different scientific disciplines ranging from geography through political science to neoclassical economics. In this way, he provides a fresh, new, broad outlook and tackles some persistent myths like the burden on consumers, taxpayers and developing countries, while at the same time highlighting that the model of 'coordinated capitalism' that the CAP represents has failed to achieve its societal goals." - Emil Erjavec, University of Ljubljana