Modern Monoculture and Periphery Processes: a World Systems Analysis of the Brazilian soy expansion from 2000-2012
Abstract: The article treats the broader socio-environmental and economic implications of the expansion in Brazilian soy production, during the period from 2000-2012. The World Systems Analysis (WSA) perspective of Terence Hopkins and Immanuel Wallerstein (1982) is applied in order to assess whether this development may be understood as characteristic of the economic processes of periphery formation. This theoretical framework is combined with contemporary contributions to the World Systems Analysis literature that emphasize environmental issues and the particular nature of modern agribusiness, in order to grasp the complexities of today´s Brazilian soy sector. The dynamics of production expansion and its different societal impacts are approached through a commodity chain analysis of the Brazilian soy production. A data triangulation strategy is applied within the analysis, through scrutiny of official documents, research papers, interviews and statistical material. The article concludes that while some circumstances diverge from the interpretations of the WSA perspective, other findings suggest a convergence between the recent Brazilian soy expansion and this theoretical body’s conceptualizations of global periphery. The analysis also points to the need to reconsider the structural determinism of the WSA perspective, particularly with regards to the possible potential of political agency to confront the challenges associated with commodity-based development.