Rurality and multi-level governance

Marginal rural areas inciting community governance

Authored by: Bettina B. Bock

The Routledge Companion to Rural Planning

Print publication date:  January  2019
Online publication date:  January  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138104051
eBook ISBN: 9781315102375
Adobe ISBN:


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In the late 1990s, the shift of power from government to governance was a critical subject of academic debate. In the rural context, studies focused on the role of governance in endogenous models of development. The discussion centred on the opportunities for development from bottom-up and based on local resources, the danger of elite groups’ dominance and the legitimacy of rural governance within a representative democracy society. Changes in the governing of rural areas have continued ever since and proceeded in the same direction. They reflect the continuous withdrawal of the state from public tasks in the aftermath of the financial crisis and as part of welfare state reforms. Lack of public funds is one driver of this development, yet this is – again – presented as an opportunity for citizen empowerment. Marginal rural areas are affected in a particular way; because of the diminishing support from central governments, active citizens play an increasingly important role in maintaining vital services. In a way they may, hence, be considered as natural laboratories for testing and understanding the opportunities and limits of multilevel governance. This chapter looks into the development of thought about rural governance in relation to rural development. In sketches how research and theory developed since the 1990s, appointing and discussing the most important strands of thought in rural governance literature. It then focuses on current research in marginal rural areas where we see a broad spectrum of multilevel governance mechanisms, before the conclusions regarding the characteristics of current multi-level governance, its functioning and its results.

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