The Everyday Lives of Policies and People
Edited by Norman Long, Jingzhong Ye and Yihuan Wang
Chapter 7: Urbanization, Decentralization and the Reorganization of Rural Life
Bryan Roberts INTRODUCTION Urbanization is often confounded with the growth of cities and the accompanying changes in economics, politics and culture. Its impact is much broader, however, since it represents an overall transformation in spatial relations that changes rural life through migration and through integrating rural areas ever more closely into regional, national and global economies as a result of trade and improved infrastructure. Despite the often massive transfers of population to the cities, rural populations do not necessarily decrease in absolute numbers during this process. In Latin America, where the urban population was three-quarters of the total population in 2000, countries such as Colombia, Mexico and Peru had a larger agricultural labor force in that year than they had ever had previously. As an integral part of economic growth, urbanization brings rising per capita incomes, economic diversification, but, in comparison with the relatively flat income distribution of subsistence-based agricultural societies, it also brings income inequality between regions of a country, between rural and urban and within rural and urban places. These income inequalities help shape what Norman Long and myself (2005) termed the ‘new ruralities’ where agriculture is not necessarily the dominant way of making a living, where new and more complex relationships have developed between rural populations, external economic actors, governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and where locals and external agents contest over what they see as the proper use of rural resources. Contemporary urbanization is occurring in a global economic and political context marked in many countries...
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