Table of Contents

Social Capital and Rural Development in the Knowledge Society

Social Capital and Rural Development in the Knowledge Society

New Horizons in Regional Science series

Edited by Hans Westlund and Kiyoshi Kobayashi

Social capital is often considered a key factor for local development. This book analyzes the role of social capital for rural areas’ survival and development in the current age of metropolitan growth – an era in which urban is the norm and where rural areas must adapt to this new situation and build innovative urban-rural relations.

Chapter 1: Social capital and sustainable urban–rural relationships in the global knowledge society

Hans Westlund and Kiyoshi Kobayashi

Subjects: development studies, development studies, environment, environmental sociology, geography, human geography, social policy and sociology, sociology and sociological theory, urban and regional studies, regional studies, urban studies


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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