The International Handbook of Environmental Sociology
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The International Handbook of Environmental Sociology

Edited by Michael R. Redclift and Graham Woodgate

The International Handbook of Environmental Sociology is a major interdisciplinary reference work on the developing field of environmental sociology. It consists of over 30 specially commissioned essays by leading scholars from around the world. These original essays examine a wide range of environmental issues in the developed and developing world as well as formerly centrally planned countries to present a truly international perspective. Together they analyse theory and concepts, philosophical and empirical issues as well as offering practical policy advice.
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Chapter 5: Sustainable rural development: from industrial agriculture to agroecology

Eduardo Sevilla-Guzmán and Graham Woodgate


5. ‘Sustainable rural development’: from industrial agriculture to agroecology’ Eduardo Sevilla-GuzmBnand Graham Woodgate INTRODUCTION This chapter investigates the origins and evolution of the notion of ‘sustainable rural development’ from its roots in the early opposition to what, in the latter half of the nineteenth century, were already seen as the unacceptable impacts of capitalist development in the rural arena, through to the current discourse surrounding the theoretical orientation known as ‘agroecology’ that has been developing in the Spanish-speaking world over the course of the 1980s and 1990s. The historical roots of the concept are to be found in the debate between orthodox Marxists and populists (or Narodniki) in Russia, surrounding the agrarian question and the role of agriculture and the peasantry in the historical process. Moving into the twentieth century, the debate was taken up again as, first, the ‘American Rural Life’ school and later, the ‘agricultural modernization’ school were confronted, respectively, by neopopulists and heterodox Marxists, and dependency theorists. The essential point, however, is the emergence in the late nineteenth century, of an alternative current of thought that challenged the capitalist development trajectory. Having established the genealogy of sustainable rural development, the chapter goes on to outline the philosophical and conceptual basis of the ‘theoretical orientation’ of agroecology. Here we recognize the dispute between agroecology and the hegemonic theoretical orientation which guides what we have called the ‘ecotechnocratic discourse on sustainability’. What we have attempted, then, is an interpretation of the evolution of social thought, through the application of...

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