Edited by Michael R. Redclift and Graham Woodgate
Chapter 31: Rural sustainability in Britain: the social bases of sustainability
Terry Marsden, Jonathan Murdoch and Simone Abram INTRODUCTION The 1990shave been marked in the British context by a growing environmentalization of the social sciences and of the policy-making community. Initially, concern focused on attempts to define the parameters of sustainability and to identify some coherence in its logic. This represented a particularly daunting prospect for rural sociologists, geographers and political scientists, given their long-standing problems and preoccupations in defining ‘rurality’. The prospect of conflating woolly notions of sustainability with the rural created its own dangers of perpetuating the intractability of rural social science - just at a time when research funding opportunities were recognized as needing to deliver clear ‘answers’ to the contradictions in neoconservative rural Britain. This issue began to perplex the rural studies community, illustrating old tensions between positivistic and humanistic thinking and approaches. For instance, in a wide-ranging stocktaking of rural research which pertained to sustainability questions in 1992, Hodge and Dunn admit: A considerable volume of research has been undertaken in the past few years in the areas of social science relating to rural issues. This has informed our understanding, for instance, of socioeconomic change in rural areas, of the changing characteristics of farm households, of environmental impacts and control. All of these areas potentially touch on concerns for rural sustainability although very little has addressed them directly. And yet there is a great deal of work which is required so as to establish the ways in which sustainability can be incorporated into rural affairs. The...
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