Redefining the ‘Rural Question’: The New ‘Politics of the Rural’ and Social Policy

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Politics in the countryside has undergone a significant shift in emphasis in recent decades, which may be characterized as a transition from ‘rural politics’ to ‘a politics of the rural’. Whereas ‘rural politics’ refers broadly to politics located in rural space, or relating to ‘rural issues’, the ‘politics of the rural’ is defined by the centrality of the meaning and regulation of rurality itself as the primary focus of conflict and debate. However, far from marginalizing social issues – as early work on the new rural conflicts by Mormont implied – the paper argues that the new politics of the rural has liberated rural social policy from the shadow of agricultural policy, providing a new language and context through which rural social issues can be placed on the political agenda. Three examples of this are discussed, drawing on illustrations from Britain, Australia, New Zealand and North America – conflicts over the rationalization of public and commercial services in rural communities; campaigns around the closure of rural schools and their symbolic place at the heart of rural communities; and issues of difference and discrimination in the countryside, including responses to travellers and asylum-seekers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)579-595
Number of pages17
JournalSocial Policy and Administration
Issue number6
Early online date04 Oct 2006
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2006


  • Rural politics
  • Rural social policy
  • Rural services
  • Exclusion


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