The Rural–Agriculture Power Play

Authored by: Loka Ashwood , Michael M. Bell

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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Over 30 years ago, rural studies took a marked turn away from the symbolism of its rural footing. In the midst of a farm crisis, failed social interventions and misplaced support of productivism, rural sociologists recognised it was time for theoretical innovation and change in the discipline. And how better to turn the passive sociological support of technocratic agribusiness into a razor-edged refute than through the sociology of agriculture? Newby’s (1983) now classic critique offered the sociology of agriculture as a counter to the failed sociology of the rural. Agriculture and its labour enabled a materialist approach rooted in political economy that classic writers like Marx and Kautsky could speak to. And although the rural may not matter to everyone, eating and the means for doing so do, ensuring disciplinary relevance. Instead of the population decline and regressive politics of the rural, which Marx famously characterised as the ‘idiocy of rural life’ (Marx & Engels [1848] 1972, p. 477), the sociology of agriculture offered a rebirth of the discipline through theoretical tools not specific to the rural, like commodification, mechanisation, extraction and exploitation.

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