Social and Economic Equality

A Territorial and Relational Perspective

Authored by: Bettina B. Bock

Routledge International Handbook of Rural Studies

Print publication date:  May  2016
Online publication date:  May  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138804371
eBook ISBN: 9781315753041
Adobe ISBN: 9781317619864


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Rural areas have never escaped poverty and social exclusion. Social inequality is of all times and all places. Unequal access to land perpetuated traditional relations of dependency and domination between peasants and large estate holders well into the 20th century, and may still be found in novel forms in many parts of the world. Of course, the scenery has substantially changed and, generally speaking, the quality of life in rural areas of the global north has improved considerably since the Second World War. Substantial governmental investments in agriculture and rural development played an important role here as well as changes in society at large – such as the rolling out of the welfare state in some nations, and improvement of (technological) infrastructure that substantially improved the connectivity of rural areas. While rural disadvantage and deprivation never disappeared, scenes of extreme rural inequality portrayed in numerous movies and novels, such as Novecento and Grapes of Wrath, seem to be irrevocably part of the past, at least in the global north. In recent years, however, images of the exploitation of migrant agricultural workers in the United States and southern Europe and the desperate living conditions of minority groups, such as refugees, Roma and Native Americans in the USA, make one wonder if that is not changing again.

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