Managing Diverging Interests and Creating a Common Culture at the Département Level

Special Report: Representing Farmers
Creating Unity within France’s National Federation of Farmers’ Unions (FNSEA)
By Alexandre Hobeika

How can unity endure in an organization that accommodates many diverging interests ? Taking cues from an in-depth ethnographic study of FNSEA, the main union representing French farmers, in the Orne department, this paper shows the constant unification work carried out to maintain the group. The union leaders hold regular meetings, especially about the allocation of collective means of production. Conflict avoidance in negotiations between powerful interest groups within the union leads to a patronized form of management of the land market. Conversely, collective bargaining over prices maintains lively internal debates among the organization most powerful interest groups. Couched in the language of economic expertise, these debates create a shared language between members. Finally, a common identity – that of the “good farmer” ties together the members of the group.

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