The Sustainability of Rural Life
Since the 19th century, sociology has explored the causes and consequences of rural-urban shifts associated with capitalist industrialization, examining population and economic decline in rural communities, and the structural disadvantages that curtail rural efforts to turn things around: weak political power relative to urban areas, urban-centric policies, and governance that downloads more social responsibility to rural governments and citizens as it simultaneously shrinks their budgets. Although rural areas continue to supply commodities that support modern economies, increasing productivity and reorganized work processes mean that fewer people actually work in rural-based industries. Thus, the rural communities of the future will not look like those of the recent past.
We invite papers focusing on the strategies and factors that allow rural communities to retain resources, wield power, and determine their own futures in matters such as population retention and growth, economic and social development, health, community and justice services, quality of life, the challenges of climate change, and governance. Possible subtopics include youth and education, co-operatives and other alternative business structures, the role of local currencies and “relocalization” initiatives, subsistence living, and natural resource extraction. We ask that papers use their analysis of these topics to begin to imagine sustainable rural futures and to contribute to a new rural sociology that takes into account 21st century realities, resources, challenges and opportunities.