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Standards and Their Problems: From Technical Specifications to World-Making

Transforming the Rural

ISBN: 978-1-78714-824-6, eISBN: 978-1-78714-823-9

Publication date: 30 June 2017


Effective standards are at once technical specifications for various people, processes, and products, as well as world-changing phenomena. Put simply, standards are one means by which we determine who we are and how we shall live. Alternatively, standards are more than technical specifications; effectively implemented standards are part of the social infrastructure that makes a given type of society possible. This, in turn, suggests that – if we are to collectively decide what kind of society and what kind of agri-food sector we want – the recent turn to standards (and away from government regulation) cannot be left in the hands of a few experts, but must be subjected to democratic deliberation. This is especially true if the scope of standards is to be expanded so as to include problems such as climate change and sustainability. These are “wicked problems” in that all the parameters cannot be specified, there is no single optimum to be attained and “…there is no criterion system nor rule which would tell you what is correct or false” (Rittel, 1972).



Busch, L. (2017), "Standards and Their Problems: From Technical Specifications to World-Making", Transforming the Rural (Research in Rural Sociology and Development, Vol. 24), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 97-114.



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