The well-being of rural people and places is shaped in part by the ways in which local communities and areas where people live are organised, and the ways in which these local places, identities and institutions are embedded within interactive shifting economic, cultural and social spaces that are simultaneously local, regional, national and global in nature (McMichael, 2010; Barrett, 2014; Higgins, Potter, Dibden & Cocklin, 2014). The organisation and well-being of rural places can therefore be understood, in part, in institutional terms, including the structure of economies and the organisation of local institutional and governmental bodies. Rural areas with less diversified economies and weak institutional structures are less able to withstand economic shocks (Lobao, 2014), raising basic structural questions about community capacity, resilience and adaptation in the face of adversity (Freshwater, 2015). Policy trends promoting decentralisation and privatisation of governance and public services since the 1980s have further forced localities to increase their reliance upon market forces for public goods provision, throwing many rural areas, already challenged by poverty concentrations and limited fiscal resources, into further structural disadvantage. As Shortall and Warner note, ‘although the view that decentralisation, privatisation and participation make for better government is contested for failing to meet efficiency, social redistribution or democratic objectives, it remains a primary ideological drive behind rural policy’ (2012, p. 16), a theme also taken up by Gorlach and Starosta’s chapter within this section. Further, some institutions, such as education, may work at cross purposes to rural community well-being if the role of schooling is primarily framed by policy makers and local stakeholders in terms of its economic function, and specifically the production of mobile human capital responsive to the shifting workforce demands of a global economy (Corbett, 2007; Nichols & Berliner, 2007). Under these circumstances, and with limited use-value in rural home communities, education may paradoxically contribute to rural youth out-migration, and ageing and under-skilled remaining local populations, reinforcing already existing structural disadvantages within rural areas (Corbett, 2007; Nelson, 2014; Petrin, Schafft & Meece, 2014).
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Social Sciences(all)