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Multiscalar moral economy

Global agribusiness, rural Zambian residents, and the distributed crowd

Tijo Salverda

This article addresses the relevance of the moral economy concept in light of unequal socioeconomic relations between a European agribusiness and rural residents in Zambia. It argues that the moral economy concept offers a helpful heuristic device for analyzing how relationships are constituted, negotiated, and contested among interdependent actors with “opposing” socioeconomic interests. To explain the dynamics of their relationships, however, the moral economy concept has to extend beyond its usual, spatially restricted (i.e., local) focus. Instead, “external,” distant, non-local actors, such as foreign critics concerned about “land grabbing,” also influence the local character of moral-economic exchanges between the agribusiness and rural residents. Hence, the article proposes a multiscalar perspective to account for the influence of a wider array of actors.