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Muck, Brass and Smoke: Policy post-exceptionalism in the agri-food sector

Lookup NU author(s): Adrienne AttorpORCiD, Professor Ruth McAreaveyORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


Governance is well recognized as shifting boundaries of responsibilities for doing things among key partners. What is less clear is how exactly power relations are altered and where power is concentrated as new forms of governance emerge. In our article we use the concept of policy post-exceptionalism to critically assess ‘Going for Growth’, a strategic action plan that, until the recent past, underpinned the Northern Ireland agri-food industry. The agri-food sector has an important and prominent role in the Northern Ireland economy. The Going for Growth strategy illustrates how particular interests within the sector are supported by government, as demonstrated through the Renewable Heat Initiative and a scheme promoting anaerobic digestors. Using policy post-exceptionalism to scrutinize the strategy, our research shows what can go wrong when a transition to post-exceptionalism occurs. While Going for Growth purported to represent the wider interests that one might expect to find in a post-exceptionalist approach to agri-food governance, in fact the concentration of power with corporate actors left little space for the inclusion of wider interests. We conclude that this strategy represented a move towards tense post-exceptionalism, creating at least one political scandal, raising questions of legitimacy and transparency and fundamentally undermining political viability of wider government. It is an extreme case of what can happen when post-exceptionalist policymaking goes wrong.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Attorp A, McAreavey R

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Rural Studies

Year: 2020

Volume: 79

Pages: 302-310

Print publication date: 01/10/2020

Online publication date: 30/08/2020

Acceptance date: 18/08/2020

Date deposited: 24/08/2020

ISSN (print): 0743-0167

ISSN (electronic): 1873-1392

Publisher: Elsevier


DOI: 10.1016/j.jrurstud.2020.08.050


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