There is a concern that agriculture will no longer be able to meet, on a global scale, the growing demand for food. Facing such a challenge requires new patterns of thinking in the context of complexity and sustainability sciences. This paper, focused on the social dimension of the study and management of agricultural systems, suggests that rethinking the study of agricultural systems entails analyzing them as complex socio-ecological systems, as well as considering the differing thinking patterns of diverse stakeholders. The intersubjective nature of knowledge, as studied by different philosophical schools, needs to be better integrated into the study and management of agricultural systems than it is done so far, forcing us to accept that there are no simplistic solutions, and to seek a better understanding of the social dimension of agriculture. Different agriculture related problems require different policy and institutional approaches. Finally, the intersubjective nature of knowledge asks for the visualization of different framings and the power relations taking place in the decision-making process. Rethinking management of agricultural systems implies that policy making should be shaped by different principles: learning, flexibility, adaptation, scale-matching, participation, diversity enhancement and precaution hold the promise to significantly improve current standard management procedures.
Ortega, M., Rivera-Ferre, M., Baumgärtner, J. (2013) Rethinking study and management of agricultural systems for policy design. Sustainability, 5: 3838-3875.