Chapter 13: Reconfiguring places – wealth and the transformation of rural areas
The rural landscape of the Western world has been shaped by the wealth and power of elite groups from the landed aristocracy to contemporary affluent amenity migrants. For centuries, wealth has provided elites with the capacity to transform rural places, from the quasi-autocratic ability of rich landowners to redesign the appearance of the rural landscape, to the political influence of affluent groups on fiscal and land use planning policies, to the effect of differentiated property prices in segregating residential geographies, to the tailoring of services and amenities to the lifestyle and consumption preferences of wealthy residents. This chapter examines the structures and dynamics that lie behind such articulations of power, and in particular the close and historically embedded relationship between wealth and landownership in rural societies. In doing so, the chapter focuses on the examples of three distinct forms of wealth that have had an impact on rural places – the old wealth of the landed gentry in Europe; the new wealth of gentrifying middle classes; and the global wealth of the super-rich. It also considers the mobilization of opposition to the power of the wealthy in rural areas. The intersection of wealth, land and power in rural societies has deep historical roots.
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