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Stefan Sjöblom
+358 2941 28414

Administrative Assistant
Minna Lehtola
+358 2941 28483

ESRS XXII Congress, 20-24 August, 2007, Wageningen Working Group 7: Rural-urban relations, short-termism and sustainable development

Kjell Andersson
, Stefan Sjöblom & Minna Lehtola (University of Helsinki, Swedish School of Social Science, FO-RUM)
Erland Eklund
(Åbo Akademi University, Vasa)
Pekka Salmi
(Finnish Game and Fisheries Research Institute)

During the last decades, one of the strongest trends within rural research has been the discourse on the consumption countryside. This tradition assumes that the rural areas during the last decades have been transformed from a domain dominated by agriculture to a domain dominated by the consumption demands of the growing urban middle-class, often coined in symbolic and cultural terms (nature, authenticity, freedom etc.). Physically, many rural areas are still dominated by agriculture and forestry. The vision of a consumption countryside is still mostly a vision - even if tourism, country living and commuting, second homes, nature protection, etc., gain pace in a large number of regions. However, the strong and persistent discourse may act as some kind of self-fulfilling prophesy, not the least because of a wide range of investment (both economic and political) channelled to “the consumption countryside”.

The above described development is closely connected to rural-urban relations and interdependencies. Counter urbanisation movement is one of the strong facets of contemporary urban development and culture, the related commuting systems relate the rural and the urban on a daily basis, the consumers of the commodified countryside are to a large extent urban middle-class, etc. The new rural-urban system, and the new rural consumption market, largely has developed under the auspices of neo-liberalism and antiauthoritarian postmodernism. However, the development, and the vision of a “countryside capital” as the basis for an integrative and sustainable rural development, clearly seems to call for a regulation policy. The task is to accommodate sectors and activities such as (conventional) agriculture, rural tourism and related consumption and nature protection. Recently, traditional government has more and more given way to governance, forms of steering and control that are not based primarily on the authority of the state but on cooperation between different agencies and stakeholders related to each other on a horizontal basis.

One of the main instruments in this cooperation is temporary projects and related partnerships. Through projects actors can focus upon a specific issue, they can gather both expert and lay and tacit knowledge, they can foster commitment among those involved, they can gain legitimacy through involvement of affected parties in governance processes, etc. At the same time, there is an astonishing lack of knowledge on the effects of this widespread "short-termism" in policy and regulation. Is there sustainability in terms of procedures and management systems in the “project state”? And more important, are the policy outcomes sustainable, or in other words, will short-termism support long-termism in social and ecological terms?

Rural-urban relations and the related consumption countryside are more or less a showcase for the societal and policy arena where short term projects and partnerships are regarded as appropriate instruments and applied on a wide scale. Different social groups, rationalities and discourses are involved, the issue crosses important administrative borders and the governance system can hardly be more “multilevel”, a wide range of historical layers (in terms of physical landscape, "discursive landscape", societal formations, etc.) are involved and so on. Nevertheless, the governance of rural urban relations has only recently gained attention in rural, regional and urban research, at least from the perspective of development on equal terms and new societal forms arising, neither urban nor rural.

Because of the above, the convenors invite researchers to submit papers on rural-urban relations, short-termism and sustainability from various geographical settings and analytical angels. The aim is first and foremost to develop the newly formed networks devoted to this issue and to further research on the subject matter, not the least at the EU level. The ambition is also to publish papers representing the state of the art in the research field.

WG 7:

  • XXII ESRS Congress 2007: Mobilities, Vulnerabilities and Sustainabilities: New questions and challenges for rural Europe
    Congress website >>

  • European Society for Rural Sosiology
    ESRS website >>

  • Workshop on Projectification, Governance and Sustainability: US-EU Synthesis and Comparison
    21st - 23rd October, 2007, Cornell University, US

  • Research seminar on the New Equine Industry
    Vasa 7th-8th May, 2007

  • Working Group 6: Realigning rural-urban relations in Europe
    ESRS XXI Congress 22-27 August, 2005, Keszthely, Hungary

  • Learn more about FO-RUM:
    Research profile >>
    Research projects >>
    Publications >>