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Re-imagining the rural: from rural idyll to good countryside

Lookup NU author(s): Emeritus Professor Mark Shucksmith OBE



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


Rural studies have highlighted a ‘rural idyll' as something to which many aspire, perhaps as a vision of a good place to live or as a repository of values. But harking back to an imagined past is recognised as normative and power-infused, often serving the interests of the powerful. How far should this nostalgia for an imagined ‘golden age' of indeterminate date inform a vision for a desired future? This paper seeks to provoke discussion of what might constitute visions for rural futures, or our collective imaginaries of rural places into the twenty-first century, of a ‘Good Countryside' to work towards. What morality might underpin such imaginaries? And how might we approach such a task? One approach might be to employ Utopian thinking as a means of identifying and imagining desired alternative futures, drawing upon Levitas' argument for utopia as a form of anticipatory consciousness - the not yet - in contrast to the essentially backward looking ‘rural idyll'. Urban studies are then taken as a point of departure for deliberation on what morality might underpin a ‘good countryside', and whether this might differ between urban and rural contexts. A discussion ensues on how to proceed in practice, both in eliminating ‘evils' and in pursuing collective forward dreaming and anticipatory consciousness, for example through place-shaping or networked rural development. Finally, the discussion reflects on what scholarly and practical roles rural sociologists might play in these processes.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Shucksmith M

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Rural Studies

Year: 2018

Volume: 59

Pages: 163-172

Print publication date: 01/04/2018

Online publication date: 11/08/2016

Acceptance date: 11/07/2016

Date deposited: 27/09/2016

ISSN (print): 0743-0167

ISSN (electronic): 1873-1392

Publisher: Elsevier


DOI: 10.1016/j.jrurstud.2016.07.019


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