Using ecological, historical, humanist, institutionalist, and Marxist methodologies, Duncan argues that the entire project of developing the theory of political economy has been seriously sidetracked by industrialism. Using England as a case study he shows that the relationship between modernity and agriculture need not be uncomfortable and suggests ways in which the original socialist project can be rejuvenated to make it both more feasible and more attractive. Duncan concludes that no sustainable human future can be conceived unless and until the centrality of agriculture is properly recognized and new economic institutions are developed that will encourage people to take care of their landscapes.
Part I (Introductory) Agriculture as the problem: replacing the economy in nature and in society Section 1 (preliminary): The missing environmental dimension in social criticism; Section 2 (ecological and historical): The environmental implications of agriculture and the preindustrial phase of their history; Section 3 (ecological and contemporary): The environmental implications of industry and our living environment's capacity for response; Section 4: Towards agriculture as our environmental monitor and the centrepiece of a new form of policy. Part II (Fabular) Agriculture privileged and benign: English capitalism in its light-industrial prime Section 1 (sociotheoretical): The relevance of the English case for understanding the place of agriculture in modern society; Section 2 (agronomic and ecological): Classical English farming practices and land stewardship; Section 3 (legal and institutional): The dynastic device of strict settlement; Section 4 (interpretive): The place of agriculture in the economy of capitalist England. Part III (Contemporary) Agriculture displaced and disarrayed: The industrializing (world) economy as the only perceived context for human activity in this century Section 1 (historico-ideological): Free trade and the attack on the landed interest in England; Section 2 (historico-economic): The rise and fall of an ordered world market in agricultural produce and their manifold effects; Section 3 (technical): "Solving" agriculture's problems by deliberately subsuming it under industry; Section 4 (critical): Agriculture and the socialist tradition. Part IV (Utopian) Agriculture biocontexts for future persons: Possible forms for communities securely placed in nature Section 1 (philosophical): Type of relations among persons, nature, and use-values; Section 2 (descriptive): Forms of the new agriculture for bioregions; Section 3 (exploratory): Forms of money and the division of labour; Section 4 (tentative): Pathways to Utopia.