Topic: The sustainable agricultural social system. A social science framework to grasp the diversity of farming systems for sustainability assessment
Keywords: Social sustainability, social systems, needs, rights
Sustainability assessment in farming is a new development that attempts to estimate the quality of farming. While a social dimension is mostly foreseen, based on an extensive review of sustainability assessments in agriculture (Janker & Mann 2018), we found that a coherent understanding what the social dimension of sustainability means is still missing in agriculture. The only widespread commonality of the assessments was the utilization of human rights and labour rights frameworks. Arguing that human and labour rights might not be the adequate standard to call any social system sustainable, we develop a novel framework that can guide the development of the social dimension of sustainability assessments. By utilizing an existing social science framework, Parsons’ (1991) social system of change, we support the identification of key actors, interactions and institutions. Based on these social system actors, we can then determine which needs are actually important to the respective local actors and which institutional changes are needed to implement them. We establish the needs based on Maslow’s (1943) categories of needs and utilize the rights approach (Gasper 2007) as a bottom threshold that cannot be undercut. This ‘sustainability scale’ can then give indications on how well the needs of the social actors are fulfilled and which further steps are necessary. We call the conceptual framework the ‘sustainable agricultural social system’. This general framework promises a way to grasp the complexity and diversity of local farming systems while still producing comparable results in the future. We therefore believe that it is suitable for the session on ‘Social innovation and social farming as a driver of transformations and changes in rural areas’.