Protected Denominations of Origin (PDOs): A Commons for Late Capitalism?

Wednesday, July 12, 2017
Gilbert Scott Building - Room 132 (University of Glasgow)
Thomas Abercrombie , Anthropology, New York University
PDO branding is a particularly European form of "social capitalism" that protects the integrity of local and regional communities and their cultural heritage in the era of global capitalism. Promotion of PDOs (and PGIs, Protected Geographic Indicators) does not, like TTIP and TTP trade pacts, favor the accumulation of value by a global agroalimentary industry. Instead it adds value to local/regional agricultural products, and helps communities of production recapture part of that value. PDOs regulate production and control branding and labeling, making particularities of geographical provenance and certain human/animal/plant/microbe/technological assemblages into the collective heirs of a valued heritage. PDO added value results from the branding of place and tradition, and links the commodity called wine to the labor of its producers and their social milieu, rather than severing such ties in the manner of Fordist or "flexible" commodity production. PDO branding hitches bottled wine to medieval town centers and forms of intangible patrimony, which are themselves commodified as "tourable" local heritage. This paper also compares Wine Ordinances of 15th-18th century Spanish municipalities to their contemporary PDO regulations, finding them strikingly similar (though the latter lack certain protectionist powers of the former), and asks why and how such prior regulatory regimes were nullified by 18th and 19th century liberalism, ending the "medieval corporatism" of Weber's pre-modernity. Wine PDOs in Spain and the EU appear to reinvent the commons in capitalist form, striking a particularly European compromise that may sustain liveable communities in rural milieu.
  • CES 2017 PDO branding is a particularly European form of.docx (158.8 kB)