The role of institutions in agricultural despecialisation in Hérault (France)
The primary aim of this study is to assess the role of institutions in the process of agricultural change. Throughout this study, the need for an institutional approach in studying contemporary change in rural areas is stressed; moreover, the structure of this institutional approach, capable of being extended to other substantive contexts, has been elaborated. The context for the study of institutions is agricultural despecialisation, an important context when related to regions in which agriculture has become specialised in products now in structural surplus. In this study, the European Community (EC) is singled out as the major institution tackling the problem of structural surpluses in agricultural production. The table wine sector provides the focus for the study of agricultural surpluses since it is characterised by large volumes of unsold surplus production and the need for winegrowers to be 'eased' into other types of agricu1tural production. Between the levels of the EC's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the viticultural holding, there are a range of institutions mediating in the process of despecialisation. The Languedoc-Roussillon, and in particular the departement of Herault, a highly specialised table wine producing region in southern France, is selected as the context for the study of these institutions and their impact upon the process of agricultural despecialisation out of vines.