The University of Wisconsin set up one of the first departments of rural sociology. It has now dropped the term "rural" and changed its name to the "Department of Community and Environmental Sociology. Several academic journals are published in the field of or closely related to rural sociology, including:. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For the academic journal, see Rural Sociology journal.
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List of social science journals. For many of its institutional sponsors, whose primary goal has been the technological advancement of agriculture, the predominant justification for supporting rural sociology research has been its presumed ability to enhance the process of modernization of rural society.
Two important consequences have followed from this sponsorship. First, the research agenda of rural sociology has been significantly influenced by politicians and administrators of colleges of agriculture and agricultural experiment stations. Second, theoretical development within rural sociology has atrophied. Theoretical work that may contradict the prevailing social policy dogma and thereby threaten its financial and institutional support has been particularly uncommon. Thus, the practice of American rural sociology has been part of an explicit social policy of transforming rural society Newby The opposing cultural theme portrays rural society as a way of life that is superior to existence in the cities and threatened by urban industrial capitalism Sorokin and Zimmerman It has protagonists within rural sociology and in society for whom the problem is how to preserve the wholesome qualities of rural society against the encroachments of urban industrial capitalism e.
These Jeffersonian values of community, individualism, family entrepreneurship, and grass-roots democracy inspire private and public sponsorship of many rural sociological endeavors Gilbert Thus, American rural sociology has been significantly involved in two explicit and conflicting social policies. First, it has contributed to positivistic social science by providing the basic descriptive information about rural populations, institutions, and social processes that have guided the development of programs to transform rural society. Second, it has served those committed to preserving selected elements of rural society, a practice that often is perceived by agricultural administrators and proponents of technological innovations as creating barriers to progress.
Within the context of these conflicting and vacillating social policy orientations, rural sociology in America has generated a substantial body of research. Some research topics have emerged principally in response to the social policy of transforming rural society and have followed the paradigm of positivism. Other topics are associated more clearly with the preservationist policy orientation and the paradigm of critical sociology.
SAGE Reference - Pathways in the Sociology of Rural Knowledge
While the alignment of social policy and scientific paradigms is not perfect, there is a clear pattern of association. Both sets of orientations have existed within rural sociology since its inception, with the modernization-positivism orientation clearly dominating the research enterprise until recently. One of the primary concerns of the Commission on Country Life was the lack of complete and accurate information about the conditions of life in rural America. Thus, study of the rural population was one of the first research topics to emerge Brunner Initially research was devoted primarily to description of the rural population, not only in an effort to provide more accurate counts of people but also to report on their characteristics in greater detail and to describe demographic processes more accurately.
Population studies continue to be extremely important in providing the basic descriptive information about the rural population that is needed to guide the development of programs to transform rural society Fuguitt et al. To the extent that rural population studies depart from purely demographic analyses and venture into sociological investigations, they are usually guided by the systemic perspective of human ecology Hawley , In this more sophisticated systems model, population size and density are treated as interdependent with the environment, the level of technology, and the social organization of a locality.
It is presumed that population size and density will expand to the maximum possible within the constraints imposed by the other components of the system, especially the technology of transportation and communication. While the perspective offers promise of merging social and spatial analysis, the results have been only partially successful.
Rural population studies cum human ecology have yet to integrate the social and spatial levels of reality. As more information about rural populations became available, comparisons with urban populations became possible, and there followed a prolific production of research to examine the belief that population size and density set the conditions of social action and social organization. The evidence that there are universal differences in the cultural and social characteristics that may be derived from differences in population size and density has not been convincing Pahl  Thus, while comparisons are drawn between rural and urban populations, the causality argument associated with the rural-urban continuum has been discarded by most rural sociologists.
Rural sociologists have conducted hundreds of community studies that serve as a major source of information for the design of community development programs Bell and Newby ; Summers , Luloff and Swanson ; Wilkinson By that time the rural-urban continuum, which was the chief frame of reference for many investigators, was falling into disrepute Pahl  Their studies were being criticized for their impressionistic methodologies and their excessively descriptive nature Colin Bell and Newby Moreover, proponents of the mass-society thesis argued that communities had been eclipsed by the forces of urbanization, bureaucratization, and centralization Stein ; Vidich and Bensman ; Warren Community was alleged to be no longer a meaningful locus of social decision making.
It was presumed that the increased presence of extralocal forces in the community vertical integration had destroyed the horizontal integration of communities and rendered small rural communities powerless in the face of broad and powerful forces of mass society. Although the tradition of holistic community studies has not returned to its former status, evidence clearly supports the argument that increased vertical integration does not necessarily destroy horizontal integration Richards ; Summers Rather, it is more consistent with the empirical data to view local autonomy as a variable, and the impact of changes in vertical integration as varying according to a complex matrix of variables characterizing the external agent and the community.
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In , W. DuBois began a series of analyses of economic conditions among rural black groups and their relation to agriculture DuBois , , Land tenure and types of farming enterprises were studied to understand the relations of farming and agriculture-based businesses to the conditions of rural living. The methodology of these studies was often that of the community survey, and consequently there was much overlap with population and community studies. Most of these studies were descriptive in nature, and they generated taxonomies of farming enterprises, which provided further refinements of farm family and farming community characteristics.
The resulting social maps of farming communities provided detailed information to guide modernization programs, especially those of the Cooperative Extension Service, with its offices in virtually every rural county in the United States. Although technological innovations have been occurring in agriculture for centuries, technological change was revolutionized with the introduction of hybrid corn Ryan and Gross With this innovation, adoption and diffusion research became a new research field led by rural sociology.
The first research focused on identifying which farmers had the highest rates of adoption of hybrid corn and how the adoption process was diffused to other farmers. Soon the research encompassed other innovations and spread to other countries with the modernization era at the end of World War II Rogers ; Fliegel The basic processes of adoption and diffusion are now reasonably well understood, and training programs based on this knowledge are being implemented worldwide in areas of human behavior that reach well beyond farming practices to include health and nutrition, resource conservation, business management, and many other areas.
By the s there was a strong and growing disillusionment with the societal consequences of positivistic social science and the absence of a structuralist perspective Newby and Buttel It was claimed that theory and research had become uncoupled, with theory being excessively abstract and research exhibiting a mindless empiricism. Several rural sociologists involved in international development research offered challenges to the Western development orthodoxy by claiming that modernization was serving the interests of the powerful and wealthy rather than improving the social and economic well-being of peasants and poor people Havens ; Havens and Flinn ; Thiesenhusen In North America and Europe similar claims were being expressed in the environmental, civil rights, and other social justice movements of the late s.
The emerging research topics in rural sociology manifest the intellectual ferment of a more critical perspective on existing public policies, especially in relation to established institutions of agricultural and rural research and programs claiming to improve rural communities and institutions. The emergent critical perspective incorporates a diversity of theoretical views that recognize the active role of the state in public policy and argue that it is subject to the influences within society of powerful interest groups that often are formed along the lines of class, race, ethnicity, or gender.
Thus, the contemporary theoretical debates within rural sociology draw heavily on neo-Marxist and neo-Weberian orientations, with the result that rural sociology and sociology are closer intellectual partners today than at any time in the past fifty years. Although virtually all facets of rural social organization and processes are subjected to the emergent critical perspective, some areas have received more attention than others. This critical new rural sociology was applied most extensively to understanding the paradox of the growth of large-scale capitalist agriculture accompanied by the persistence of the small-scale family or subfamily farm.
Efforts to understand this duality of agricultural structure has led to sharp debates about the barriers to capitalist transformation of agriculture, the role of small-scale and part-time farms in a functionally integrated capitalist industrial and agricultural system, and the role of the state in promoting capitalist agriculture. These critical perspectives have also been directed to understanding the social significance of the research apparatus of the land grant university system itself, particularly as to whether land-grant agricultural science has essentially served as a state policy that has helped to underwrite the growth of large-scale capitalist agriculture Busch et al.
Shortly thereafter, following on the growing disillusion with adoption-diffusion research, development-related inquiry in rural sociology shifted dramatically.
Much of the impetus behind criticism of the adoption-diffusion approach came from rural social scientists who did Third World research and who became acutely aware of its shortcomings as a vehicle for understanding agricultural change in the developing countries Havens and Flinn ; George ; Lipton ; Flora Although rural sociologists who do sociology of development research tend, not surprisingly, to give particular stress to agricultural development and its environmental implications, increasingly rural sociologists in the United States and other advanced countries do research on development processes that is often indistinguishable from that conducted by scholars who are not identified as rural sociologists.
Also, as noted earlier, in many developing countries rural sociology is virtually synonymous with sociology of development, development studies, peasant studies, village studies, and so on. To a certain extent this emerging research area overlaps the political economy of agriculture with its emphasis on technological change and its effects of distribution of ownership and control of resources, as well as equity in the distribution of benefits of new technologies Field and Burch There is the additional concern with the depletion and pollution of nonrenewable resources Schnaiberg and Gould ; Bell Social and economic impact assessment has emerged as a research activity that often is characterized by its critical perspective Freudenburg A comprehensive theory has not yet emerged that links technological change in natural resource industries to the full range of its ramifications for the environment, its socioeconomic impacts, and its associations with industrial structures.
However, the magnitude of its potential impacts and the associated public concern suggests that this area of research has a viable future Freudenburg Since the s, agriculture and natural-resource-based industries have been declining as sources of employment; the rate of decline accelerated dramatically after World War II. For a brief period during the s manufacturing was a major source of employment growth in rural areas as industries sought cheaper land, lower taxes, and a nonunion labor force willing to work for lower wages and fewer benefits.
Rural Sociology: Meaning, Scope, Importance and Origin
Although this process continues, service industries have emerged as the major source of employment growth Brown et al. These shifting labor demands have been accompanied by high unemployment in rural areas and a growth of temporary and part-time work, with resulting loss of wages and increasing levels of poverty. Rural labor market analysis has emerged as a new research area in rural sociology as a consequence Summers et al. Much of the research is devoted to describing more precisely the nature and extent of rural unemployment and underemployment.
However, the theoretical interpretations generally are sensitive to the linkages of rural labor markets to broader issues of economic restructuring. While labor demand-oriented and human capital explanations persist, there are attempts to understand the functioning of rural labor markets within the context of capitalist market institutions in a manner that is reminiscent of institutional labor economics.
Gender studies are not new to rural sociology; the role of women in farming has been a subject of research for at least a quarter-century Haney and Knowles However, the past decade has witnessed the emergency of theoretical and empirical studies that attempt to explain how the institutions of capitalism, patriarchy, and the domestic ideology influence the work roles of men and women. The rich descriptive detail of gender-based allocations of labor is being integrated into more comprehensive theoretical interpretations of structural changes in both agricultural and nonagricultural industries Beneria ; Leon and Deere ; Sachs