This article examines how organic agriculture has been justified as a
public issue. Using Boltanski’s and Thévenot’s pragmatic sociology, the article
examines media discussions on organic agriculture in two Finnish newspapers.
During the periods under examination (1982–1988, 1995–2000, 2008–2012), organic
agriculture grew from a marginal movement into an established part of agricultural
policy. The results show that different justifications for organic and conventional
agriculture were connected to differing conceptions of collectivities and the
common good. According to the analysis, issues related to the economic, environmental
and technical aspects of agriculture have been the most dominant ones.
These different ‘orders of worth’ have provided differing possibilities for actors to
make connections between general principles and particular claims. In addition,
a central way of structuring justifications has been a national conception of food
and production, which has influenced conceptions of common good. Whereas
advocates of organic agriculture constructed their justifications according to the
opposition between organic and conventional, critiques conceptualized the issue
as an opposition between organic and domestic production. This national framework
has both downplayed the relevance of organic agriculture and framed it as
an economic issue. Therefore, the study concludes by suggesting elaborations for
the understanding of the organic–conventional dichotomy as well as on economic
justifications in the politics of organic agriculture, interpreting both through the
conceptions of collectivity and the common good.