Nature Views and Sustainability in Rural Research: A Review

Research output: Working paperWorking papers


  • Lutz Laschewski
The research project PoNa Shaping nature: policy, politics and polity. Rural development and agricultural biotechnology between criticism and vision; is targeting two policy arenas: rural development and biotechnology in agriculture. The project is organised as a comparative German-Polish research project. Both main research themes have internationally been analysed and discussed in the domain of rural studies (rural sociology) for many years. Thus, this paper explores on the one hand, in how far PoNa may link and contribute to already existing discussions in this research area, and on the other hand in which ways PoNa may benefit from already existing theoretical developments in this field of research from its own comparative research.
In section 1 this paper describes changes in theoretical conceptualization of nature in rural sociology. In the post-war era nature has been a 'taken-for-granted aspect of rural life rather than a formal subject of analysis' (Castree/ Braun 2006: 162). However, since the late seventies nature has more and more been dragged into the core of rural theoretical thinking. The changing views on nature in rural sociology have paralleled wider currents of sociological such as critical materialism, constructivism and relational thinking.

Rural sociology has always been searching for a coherent understanding of its basic concept rurality, which is explored in section 2. Similar to the views of nature the concept of rurality has undergone some major revisions in the recent history of rural research. In the course of this the dualistic conceptualization of urban-rural relations has been more and more abandoned in favor of a relation thinking of rurality.

Section 3 summarizes some elements of the increasing importance of sustainability as topic in rural research. The analysis is starting with Fred Buttel's distinction of greening, which describes the phenomena that modern environmentally related symbols become increasingly prominent in social discourse, and environmentalization, which is the 'concrete expression of the broad force of greening in institutional practices' (Buttel 1992: 2). Following this distinction sustainability discourses, changing views on science and technologies and sustainability strategies are briefly discussed.

Consumption-Production relations have evolved as a new topic in rural research. Section 4 explores recent theoretical developments in this field starting from the new political economy of agriculture of the eighties up to more recent debates about the application of actor-network theory (ANT) to analyze consumption-production relations.

The final section summarizes the major trajectories in rural research. Some aspects are discussed about PoNa can exploit these elements in comparative analysis of Poland and Germany. Finally, it is briefly discussed, which contribution socio-ecological research may make for the development of national rural sociologies in Poland and Germany.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationLüneburg
PublisherLeuphana Universität Lüneburg
Number of pages43
Publication statusPublished - 2011

    Research areas

  • Sustainability Science - rural sociology, nature, sustainability, consum-production relations, Poland, Germany