New Horizons in Regional Science series
Edited by Hans Westlund and Kiyoshi Kobayashi
Chapter 1: Social capital and sustainable urban–rural relationships in the global knowledge society
In the year 1800, about 97 percent of the world’s population was living in the countryside. Today, 2013, more than 50 percent is living in cities (Raven et al. 2011). These simple facts illustrate the enormous transformation that urban–rural relations have undergone, from rural-dependent to urban–dependent. Before the industrial revolution, with a few exceptions, cities were small and performed limited services, but they were very dependent on foodstuff, firewood and other products from the surrounding countryside. The agricultural and industrial revolutions dramatically changed urban–rural relationships. Gradual improvements in agricultural efficiency made it possible to feed a growing share of the non-agricultural population; one of the prerequisites for urbanization. The other precondition for change was industrialization, which meant that cities could provide work for the rural surplus population. A new urban–rural balance developed in which the cities’ consumption of rural goods increased with their size, and the rural areas’ consumption of urban goods increased considerably. The global knowledge economy of today represents still another phase of the relationship. The knowledge economy is an urban economy. Inter-city interaction, trade and exchange are now the predominating forms of exchange on both global and national levels, while the share of urban–rural interaction and trade has decreased with changing consumption patterns and shrinking rural population shares.
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