Power and Governance

Empirical Questions and Theoretical Approaches for Rural Studies

Authored by: Lynda Cheshire

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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In the first volume of The History of Sexuality, the French philosopher Michel Foucault observed that ‘power is everywhere’ (1981, p. 93), not because it has a hold on everything, but because it is produced at every moment and at every point. While Foucault’s writing on power represented a distinct shift in the way power was understood and theorised within the social sciences, his observation about the pervasiveness of power in social relations and practices has long been shared, even among those who do not follow his theoretical stance. In the field of rural studies, this is evident in the way power has endured as a dominant theme on the research agenda. In tracking transformative, and sometimes more subtle, changes in rural society and the concomitant effects of those changes on rural power relations, and by engaging with theoretical advancements in the study of power more broadly, our understanding of how power is exercised in and upon rural areas has evolved over time. From stories of an egalitarian and distinctly rural way of life to processes of counter-urbanisation and contestations over the very meaning of rurality; from the role of local government as the locus of power in rural areas to the emergence of new forms of governance that reshape the state in both vertical and horizontal directions; from farmers as local political elites to their subsumption into a globalised and industrialised agro-food network; and from rural areas as spaces of decline and marginalisation to a reassertion of rural power through new social movements and politics, rural studies scholars have revealed the way power is bound up in each of these processes to serve the interests of some, but not others, and to generate marginalisation, inequality, conflict, resistance and change.

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