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Journal of Rural Studies 17 (2001) 41}62

What rural restructuring?

Keith Hoggart *, Angel Paniagua
Department of Geography, King's College London, Strand, London WC2R 2LS, UK
Instituto de Economn& a y Geograxa, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientixcas, c/ Pinar 25, Madrid 28006, Spain

This paper emerges from a growing sense of disquiet over the regularity and often loosely utilised appearance of the concept &rural
restructuring' in the literature. The paper examines rural restructuring from two perspectives * as an analytical approach that
emphasizes the need for a holistic view of change processes, and as a statement on the character of change in the countryside. The
argument put forward is that restructuring ideas have much to commend them as an approach, even if theoretical improvement will
require more diversity in &starting' theoretical perspectives and a stronger willingness to engage with other theoretical stances when
the weaknesses of a &starting' perspective are revealed. This will entail approaching questions of rural restructuring from a broader
range of perspectives than currently dominant visions, which are grounded in political economy. In exploring restructuring ideas as
&facts', the paper focuses on England, as this is a country in which rural restructuring is commonly reported to have occurred or be
occurring. The paper argues that this vision of the English countryside is too poorly articulated and that support for this vision is far
from convincing. It cautions that restructuring processes are less widespread than is often implied. Moreover, there are grounds for
seeing restructuring processes are reifying the past, not heralding a new social dynamic.  2001 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights

1. Introduction
As Kuhn (1962) advised long ago, as researchers we
have to guard against a comfortable acceptance of mainstream ideas, whether fashionable or long-established
bedrocks of interpretation. This paper is the "rst in a two
part critique of one prevailing interpretation, namely that
of rural restructuring. Our concern in this paper is with
the meaning of the much used expression, rural restructuring, putting forward the argument that its utilisation is
too commonly unfocused, while its theoretical base is too
partial, if not at times even concealed. More than this, we
wish to argue that, even for one of the primary loci for
commentaries on rural restructuring, there is little to
support the notion that, as others seem to de"ne it,

The authors would like to thank the anonymous referees who took
the scribbling we submitted as a "rst draft of this paper and rightly
pointed out we were trying to get a quart into a pint pot. Their
suggestions and prompts, alongside the editor's generous support, have
resulted in the readers' pain being doubled, as one paper was converted
into two. The responsibility for choosing this strategy, and so in#icting
ourselves twice on readers, is the authors' alone.
* Corresponding author. Tel.: #44-20-7848-2713.
E-mail address: keith.hoggart@kcl.ac.uk (K. Hoggart).

&restructuring' is occurring in rural England. This seemingly rather extreme view is not one that we "nd easy to
argue, as we believe that the &restructuring' approach
should strengthen theoretical evaluation of rural change.
For us, the applicability of &restructuring' ideas to rural
studies are less about something that is occurring (&facts'),
than, as Lovering (1989) contends, as an approach to
elucidating the strengths and limitations of theorisations
of social change. In the "rst part of this paper we present
a case for this interpretation of restructuring. In the
second part of the paper, we turn to consider the tone
that is implicit (or even explicit) in well-crafted and in#uential arguments presented by some astute rural commentators. Here we question the validity, or utility if you
prefer, of the image that English rural society has undergone a signi"cant qualitative transformation. In a sense
we ask whether even the titles &consumption countryside'
(Marsden, 1999) or &post-productivist countryside' (e.g.
Ward, 1993; Ilbery and Bowler, 1998; Halfacree, 1999),
do imply much more profound rural change than has
occurred. In a sense, in this second section we are posing
the question, what if we have got it wrong? What if
restructuring should be regarded as the outcome of
societal processes? In this second section we hold that
even if we search for restructuring &facts', changes in rural

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K. Hoggart, A. Paniagua / Journal of Rural Studies 17 (2001) 41}62

areas reveal little to merit an accompany designation

&restructuring'. As a heuristic device, &restructuring' might
o!er some chance of theoretical evaluation. As a benchmark against which to evaluate rural change, it currently
lacks conviction.

2. Restructuring processes and the restructuring approach

In its simplest form mainstream understandings of
what is meant by &rural restructuring' draw attention to
a qualitative change from one form of social &organisation' to another (Lovering, 1989). In this regard, the
notion of restructuring is linked to shifts from Fordism to
post-Fordism, from modernism to postmodernism, and
from a Keynesian to a neo-liberal state. Let us expose
some implications of viewing restructuring in this way.
First, we need to recognise that restructuring does not
involve the complete transition from one of these isms to
its associated post-ism. If it did debate would sink in the
quagmire of specifying what each ism and post-ism constitutes. This is a mine"eld we can do without. For one,
there is a longstanding squabble over the standing of
postmodernism, which some see as the next phase of
a (#exible) modernism, while others proclaim its emphatic distinctiveness (e.g. Bradbury and McFarlane,
1976; Dear and Flusty, 1998). Likewise, there is regular
questioning of the prevalence of so-called post-Fordist
production practices (e.g. Lipietz, 1993; RodrmH guez-Pose,
1994), with others questioning how widespread Fordist
practices have been in the post-war era (King, 1993;
Goodwin et al., 1995). As for the neo-liberal state, proposing its arrival might make good rhetoric to swell the
perceived importance of other isms, like Thatcherism,
but scratches on the surface quickly reveal the persistence
of corporatism and the &nanny state' (e.g. Gamble, 1988;
Brittan, 1989). So what we are looking for when referring
to restructuring is something less than the reinvention of
societal norms. That said, in our view some analysts
reveal an unhealthy tendency to &use' the word &restructuring' rather loosely when referring to societal change. If
we are over-generous in describing change as &restructuring', the result could be a loss in conceptual value. For us,
when seen as a shift in society from one condition to
another, &restructuring' should embody major qualitative, and not just quantitative, change in social structures
and practices. Unless we want to trivialise the concept, its
use should be restricted to transformations that are both
inter-related and multi-dimensional in character; otherwise we have descriptors that are more than adequate,
like industrialisation, local government reorganisation,
electoral dealignment or growth in consumerism. To
clarify, in our view restructuring is not a change in one
&sector' that has multiplier e!ects on other sectors. Restructuring involves fundamental readjustments in a variety of spheres of life, where processes of change are

causally linked. We cannot de"ne a quantitative hurdle

that must be passed before we are justi"ed in using the
expression, and have to rely on broad agreement on the
nature of change that merits a &restructuring' label. Our
caution, that has prompted this paper, is that there appears to be too readily a willingness to use the term.
The implication is well articulated in Marsden's (1999,
p. 504) recent call &2 for a more integrated, holistic and
spatial rather than sectoral approach' to understanding
rural transformation. This call builds on an earlier recognition of the inadequacies of agricultural modernisation
and rural community approaches to understanding patterns and processes of rural transformation. Central to
this awareness is an appreciation of the multiplicity of
causal forces that impact on change forces, with recognition that these forces can coalesce in dissimilar ways in
di!erent places (e.g. Newby, 1986). The &locality studies'
literature of a decade ago is quite explicit in this regard,
in its empirical insights on how change in super-structure
is not manifest in one form on the ground (Cooke, 1989;
Harloe et al., 1990). In this context, Newby (1986) o!ers
an important caution in calling for us not to repeat the
problematics in &locality studies' by producing a new
descriptivism that rei"es exceptionalism. Underlying this
caution is a warning that analyses that investigate the
holism of rural transformations run the risk of sliding
toward empiricism. Our reading of the literature leans us
in the direction of fearing this has already happened. An
illustration is gleaned from contributions to the aptly
named volume, The Changing Function and Position of
Rural Areas in Europe (Huigen et al., 1992). Here quite
di!erent images of the elements in rural restructuring are
painted. Focusing on the Finnish context, for example,
Oksa (1992) sees key restructuring dimensions relating to
primary sector production systems, the provision of public services, new mechanisms and sources for farm family
income, the adoption of information technologies, and
higher levels of personal mobility. For Thissen (1992)
these could be relevant but he speci"es themes for the
Netherlands in terms of mega-trends that beset Europe,
such as individualisation, economic and technological
change, and scale enlargement. OD CinneH ide (1992), by
contrast, presents restructuring in Ireland principally as
a shift in the sectoral balance of the economy, although
he notes that depopulation and planning strategies can
mitigate the e!ects of economic change. A further
example of this syndrome is the Fuller and van den Bor
(1995) speci"cation of the character of &global' restructuring, which is portrayed in terms of four arenas of major
change, namely, geopolitical change, economic restructuring, social change and environmentalism. The variety
of themes and emphases in the above list prompts the
thorny question of what are the key elements in
restructuring. The di!erent emphases in the above characterisations should not be taken to imply that the
schemes are inaccurate. For one analyst to highlight

K. Hoggart, A. Paniagua / Journal of Rural Studies 17 (2001) 41}62

public service transformation while another gives it scant

attention might reveal more about analytical lenses than
&actuality' but it might also point to process di!erences.
But providing an array of empirically derived categorisations of key societal changes simply beds conceptions of
restructuring in a confusing (potentially partial) and irregular kaleidoscope of empiricist messages. It is conceivably like a stamp collector being unsure how to present
her/his collection and re-arranging the now glue-less
chits of paper on a weekly basis * "rst organised by
colour, then country, then cost, then name, and so on. No
matter what happens, the unintelligible stamp from
Liechtenstein never seems to "t and you cannot disguise
the fact you have no Penny Black. Of course, it is possible
a viewer would not be looking for a Penny Black, but
does this mean that a key attribute of the stamp collection has not been recognised by the viewer? (Any expensive, rare stamp could be used here rather than the Penny
Black * this is the only one we know.) Given the potential for confusion and omission from such empiricist
arrangements, we favour placing evaluations of change in
a common framework. Viewed this way, &non-events'
should be as important as &events' in understanding the
character and comprehensiveness of change (e.g.
Salamon and van Evera, 1973; Gaventa, 1980).
In this regard, within The Changing Function and Position of Rural Areas in Europe (Huigen et al., 1992), we "nd
the chapter by Cloke and Goodwin (1992a,b) more to our
liking (also Goodwin et al., 1995). Rather than using
descriptive categories that capture visible manifestations
of change processes, they focus on concepts associated
with the regulation of change. Owing to the link to
regulation theory, their concepts possess a long time
horizon, for the focus is on broad sweeps in the evolution
of society. This is achieved by inquiring about the &mode
of regulation' and &socialisation' processes, with the central concern being the (uneven and partial) occurrence of
&structural coherence'. The last of these concepts refers to
the &hegemonic bloc' that characterises rural societies.
These hegemonic blocs are not universal in character,
even if there is a dominant form in most countries or
regions. In the main, what Cloke and Goodwin explore is
the transition from the previous hegemonic bloc in rural
England, namely the property, paternalism and power
model Newby and associates (1978) capture, to a commodi"ed, multi-functional countryside associated with
the image that rural England has become &middle class
territory' (Murdoch, 1995; Urry, 1995). A key point to
note in this conceptualisation is the need for &start' and
&end' points. Although they examine modes of regulation
and socialisation, Cloke and Goodwin (1992b) tell us
more about how structural coherence has changed
than they reveal about processes of change. But what
under-writes their understanding of change from one
societal condition to another is a theoretical vision
drawn from regulation theory.


This at least provides a common base from which to

evaluate the nature of change processes in di!erent settings. As such, if the evaluator is perceptive, insight on
signi"cant occurrences and non-occurrences should be
forthcoming. More than this, the theoretical base should
provide guidance on whether the changes that occur are
better conceptualised as restructuring or simply &business
as usual'. Our view is that, without an underlying theoretical frame of reference, we are not simply in danger of
allowing empiricist categorisations to surround themselves with the aura of explanation, but that when swimming in what is at best a diluted-theoretical lake we have
no direction beacons. We could end-up constantly going
round in circles. Fundamentally, we must get away from
the idea that change and restructuring are equivalent.
Consider in this regard, Storper and Walker (1989, p. 8)
noting that: `2industrialization, as linked to capitalist
competition and the dynamics of capital accumulation,
also generates a highly disequilibrated form of growth
that repeatedly unhinges the existing economic ordera.
This point has resonance with Kolko's (1988) observation that capitalism is currently being transformed in an
apparently chaotic (uncertain) manner, much as has happened in previous periods of economic transformation.
The point is that society is ever changing. If we are to
justify using the term &restructuring', then should this not
involve societal transformation that is somehow di!erent
from &normal' evolutions of life? What is restructuring,
and what ongoing change, needs to be evaluated in
a theoretical context. If the theory you abide by gives no
insight on this, then this strikes us as a failing in theoretical armoury. But if you do not have a theoretical model
to guide interpretation, this is a recipe for conceptual
confusion. This is stated in full awareness of the potential
for divergent interpretations across theoretical positions.
For instance, in the "eld of international political economy theorising the world order in terms of hegemonic
blocs might provide a di!erent interpretation of current
economic uncertainties than a more &traditional' globalisation perspective (Thrift, 1986). Viewed in this manner, the prospect of relative economic stability is
enhanced in times of hegemonic dominance, as seen in
the late 19th century under the British, and then again
after the Second World War until (say) the early 1970s,
when the United States was the prime world power (Cox,
1987). During times of competing international blocs,
such as during the inter-war period and in recent decades, economic uncertainty and turbulence are more
prevalent. In this conceptualisation economies today
could be seen to be passing through a phase from a past
structured coherence to a future structured coherence
(within a new hegemonic order). From this perspective
we might not be in a position yet to delimit the primary
outcomes of restructuring, as key processes have not
been played out. From another theoretical perspective,
this view might be rejected. We have no problem with


K. Hoggart, A. Paniagua / Journal of Rural Studies 17 (2001) 41}62

this disjuncture in interpretation, for we see the necessity

of theoretically informed visions of restructuring. What
such disjunctures open up is the possibility of identifying
critical weaknesses in theoretical positions. Note how the
position of women in countries or economic sectors that
have undergone major economic re-orderings has barely
improved (Evans and Ilbery, 1996; Brandt and Haugen,
1997), or perhaps even worsened (Fink et al., 1994). Seen
through the lens of feminist theory such changes hardly
constitute restructuring, no matter what other major
social disruptions are occurring.
The point, as relativists tell us, is that there are multiple
realities. Indeed, the complexity and unevenness of
societal change, alongside the rather unidimensional nature of contemporary theoretical perspectives, combine
to limit the potential for any theorisation to o!er near
complete understandings of what provokes and restrains
societal restructuring. As Newby (1986) made clear, there
is a holism to restructuring that makes investigation of its
diverse processes a mega-project, even for a single locality. Amongst early investigations in the restructuring
mould, a great deal of e!ort was lodged within a Marxist
political economy framework. As with much work in this
mould, critics held that this perspective neglected major
elements of social change. Marxist political economy was
held to o!er a limited vision, for it made a shallow
contribution to our knowledge of some fundamental
changes (e.g. gender, culture). However, if restructuring
embodies a holistic view, then it necessarily incorporates
a multitude of change processes, many of which are of
su$cient stature to be theorised in their own right. For
us, Marxist theory is not di!erent from other perspectives, in the rather shallow insights contemporary theorisations o!er beyond their core explanatory realm
(whether class relations, culture, market rationality, gender or globalisation). Given this, even if restructuring
interpretations had not started from a Marxist perspective, they would either overplay (even solely play) the
hand of one social sphere (e.g. the economy) or stumble
overtly as soon as they engaged with other spheres. But if
we retain the core sentiment that restructuring is holistic,
this means current explanatory accounts are grounded in
a philosophy of incompleteness.
To be clear, this point is not meant to suggest that
contested notions of causality are problematical. We
accept they are (almost) inevitable, if only because visions
of causal priority have roots in ideological di!erences,
disciplinary predilections and analytical persuasions.
Our point is that there are di!erent &start positions' for
interpreting societal transformations. As each start positions is embedded in a narrow analytical lens, once it is
opened up to the requirement of holistic vision, the
inadequacies of a restricted "eld of vision are quickly
revealed. The manifestations of this are various. In some
cases it is highlighted by an absence of comment, as with
gender issues from many (non-feminist) perspectives.

Amongst the Marxian political economy perspectives

that have dominated so much work on restructuring in
advanced economies, critics regularly hold that &superstructure' is poorly linked to social practices and processes in single places. Interpretation is said to be &forced'
into a single, reductionist mode of explanation (note
criticisms of reading social and political relations from
economic structures in the likes of Bagguley et al., 1990).
Although calls for the holism of restructuring perspectives might be welcomed as wise council, so far the call for
incorporating diverse causal inputs has not emancipated
theoretical vision. The sense we have is that analysts have
been prone to push forward the interpretative model they
feel most comfortable with, squeezing as much explanation into its bulging fabric as can be managed, while
adding minor caveats about &qualifying' other factors.
The principal reason for this would appear to be misspeci"cation at the heart of restructuring ideas. Here we
feel Lovering (1989) makes an important contribution. As
he indicates, the emergence of notions on restructuring
can be tied to a reaction to the rather abstract (and
economically centred) elements of Marxist writings on
space in the 1970s. Yet what emerged when restructuring
ideas took the Kuhnian baton from Marxist political
economy was not a new theorisation built around restructuring. In part this was because so much writing on
restructuring was still grounded in Marxist political
economy. In part it arose because some took &restructuring' to be a label attached to an analytical approach, not
to a &thesis'. Embodied within this approach is a philosophical position regarding the nature of explanation (for
most realism), the scope of explanation (the holism requirement), and the integration of space/place in causal
accounts. However, stating that restructuring was seen as
an approach (by some), does not advance our understanding by much. If we recognise that "elds of vision are
hemmed in by theoretical visualisation, then we cannot
expect to trans"gure our explanatory images into a holistic world-view in the short term. Many would argue this
will be unachievable in the long-term, as multiple explanations are inevitable. Leave this to one side for the
moment, for our point is that researchers examine
societal change with a particular interpretative bias. Stating that &restructuring' is an approach requiring a more
holistic vision than in the past calls for sensitivity to
di!erent interpretative perspectives. This should go well
beyond acknowledging that other perspectives provide
insight on issues or processes that are weakly addressed
in our preferred perspective. It will involve a lot more
&theoretical mixing' than analysts have so far been comfortable with.
To be clear on meaning, in our view analysts have
tended to conceptualise restructuring processes and outcomes from single perspectives; largely from a derivative
of Marxist political economy. The tendency when met
with processes or end-products that are di$cult to

K. Hoggart, A. Paniagua / Journal of Rural Studies 17 (2001) 41}62

explain seems to have been to move on rapidly, to make

polite noises about contingency or to focus on elements
of change the starting perspective does o!ers insight on.
But starting perspectives can induce dissimilar visions of
how far, in what ways and why societal change has
occurred. To grasp this, explore the dissimilar visions
that would result from investigating social change over
(say) the last three decades &starting' an interpretation
from a feminist perspective (Walby, 1990), through the
lens of cultural transformation (e.g. Inglehart, 1990) or
using Marxist political economy (Kolko, 1988). If we take
a feminist perspective for illustration, the point we are
making is that gender is not something that should be
restricted, as it is in much rural work, to local level
analysis; as if insight might be derived on household or
community life but not much else. Although the literature is not as well developed as many would like, it is
clear that feminism makes important critiques of political
economy perspectives (Gibson-Graham, 1996). For
example, it provides insight on the politics of global
relations (Steans, 1998), on international collective action
networks (Moghadam, 2000), as well as on local economic growth processes (Fainstein, 1994). Yet, in the
main, we do not believe insight from feminist perspectives
have penetrated signi"cantly into the restructuring literature that is embedded in political economy perspectives.
We are discomforted by accounts that seem to stop once
they confront the discomforts feminist (or other) perspectives raise for their interpretations. Unless a move is
made toward greater integration of insight from di!erent
perspectives, we foresee little progress towards the holism
the restructuring approach is proclaimed to provide. It is
all well and good to laud the merits of holism, but if this is
little more than camou#age to allow reductionism to
proceed using the excuse of &contingency' to write-o! the
&uncomfortable anomaly', then this does not move us
forward far.
Lest the reader is drawn into a self-congratulatory
cocoon, that festers in a false imagery of these criticisms
no longer being relevant, we should emphasise that our
emphasis on political economy so far is based on the
dominance of this explanatory mode in commentaries on
restructuring. For us, the criticisms we level are equally
applied to investigations coming from the more recently
stressed rubric of cultural studies. We accept that the
reductionism inherent in such studies is di!erent, but the
problems do not go away. For one cultural analysis in
rural studies tend to emphasis everyday lived experience,
or how `2raw experience is made sense of sociallya
(Jackson, 1989, p. 48). This has the unfortunate e!ect of
limiting most studies to the locality; as if all that matters
is what is directly experienced. As a variety of analysts
have made clear, this is politically dangerous myopia
(Gregson, 1993; Merri"eld, 1995); unless perhaps you are
part of an Establishment that bene"ts greatly from seeing
the status quo perpetuated. This point is well illustrated


by Cloke and associates (1994) Rural Lifestyles Project,

in which those with relatively poor living standards did
not report that they experienced the same. If we prioritise
lived experience we not only ignore processes by which
income distributions are generated, which are commonly
grounded well beyond the locality, but also run the risk
of reifying &the rural' by turning a blind eye to commonalties and peculiarities in local income dynamics (e.g.
Phimister et al., 2000). Despite recognition of the ways
extra-local forces are pumped through the arteries of
local experience, a focus on the local carries a disturbing
lop-sided edge. Methodologically, this has been raised in
critiques of the prioritisation given to &textual' interpretation in cultural analysis (see Cli!ord, 1990). Substantively, it is seen in the emphasis on meaning, identity,
representation and ideology, whose social construction
has too often been the end-point of analysis, rather than
a starting point for understanding society (Gregson,
1993). Put simply, the stress that is given to social construction has resulted in a downplaying of the implications or impact of that construction (as drawn out
impressively by Gregson, 1995). This does not mean these
&biases' cannot be attended to, but if we move beyond the
exaggerated claims of some cultural analysts about the
deterministic nature of political economy perspectives,
the same could be said here as well. The point is single
perspectives are limited, which is worrying (as with any
academic fashion) when academic fashion dictates that
one tunnel of vision is grasped to the neglect of others (as
with political economy two decades ago). If the restructuring approach is to advance our understanding of rural
change, it should be distinguished from political economy, feminist, cultural or whatever perspectives, because
those who adopt it seriously engage with more than one
perspective. This will not be easy and insight will probably be grounded primarily in one perspective. This does
not mean a striving for a more holistic vision is undesirable.

3. Rural restructuring as end-product

Implicit within the above section is the message that
current interpretations of how much restructuring has
taken place in rural (or other) areas should be contested.
This conclusion is self-evident once we recognise that
there are dissimilar perspectives on restructuring processes, with some of them relatively under-developed.
A reading of the political economy literature inclines the
analyst toward envisaging substantial societal change,
whereas examination through the lens of gender relations
might lean the commentator toward a more modest
assessment of societal recon"guration (e.g. Shortall,
1999). This is not to say that major transformation is not
occurring. The most obvious exemplar in recent
decades has been Eastern Europe. Here we can recognise


K. Hoggart, A. Paniagua / Journal of Rural Studies 17 (2001) 41}62

competing visions of causality, that ascribe di!erential

potency to Cold War politicking, the introduction of
democratic accountability and the spread of capitalism.
Even if we focus simply on agriculture-related issues, the
scale of change in Eastern Europe has been immense,
with new expectations for productive and regulatory
action transforming rural societies in unprecedented
ways (e.g. Ingham et al., 1998; Mokrushina, 2000). This is
seen in sharp adjustments in land ownership (e.g. Verdery, 1994; Vogeler, 1996), which have been fuelled by
massive alterations in state policies (e.g. AgoH cs and
AgoH cs, 1994; Creed, 1995), leading to whole-scale reformulation of productive practices and the principles of
marketing farm commodities (e.g. Abrahams, 1994;
KovaH ch, 1994). All this has occurred in a context of
massive change in macro-economic policies (e.g. Sujan,
1994), in governmental structures and expectations (e.g.
Baldershein et al., 1996) and in civil society (e.g. Pickvance, 1994). As Gorlach and associates (1994) put it for
Poland, the societal condition has been transposed from
repressive tolerance to oppressive freedom. Even if we
recognise that some established &norms' have change
little, such as dependence on the government (Keliyan,
1994), relatively poor rural prospects (Wilson, 1999), and
gender inequities (Fink et al., 1994), there is little doubt
that the traumas of Eastern Europe intimidate assessments of restructuring. Placed alongside the sweep of
these trans"gurations, the experiences of North America
and Western Europe look rather mundane. Perhaps Australia and New Zealand are in a more intermediary
position (e.g. Cloke, 1996), but even they pale in comparison with Eastern Europe.
There are two points to take from this. One is that even
in the midst of a major re-ordering of prevailing societal
structures and practices, some elements in society can
undergo limited change. Drawing on the previous section, the theoretical perspective that is adopted will have
clear implications for interpretations of the &scale' of
restructuring (e.g. note the continued attraction of traditional party machines in some East European countries
which seems to indicate limited value change; e.g. Symes,
1993; Creed, 1995). As already indicated, if restructuring
is to mean something more than &change', then multidimensional, interactive processes need to lie behind the
transformations that occur. Beyond this we are looking
for a sense of signi"cant change, but this cannot be quanti"ed to provide a numerical boundary beyond which restructuring can be taken to have occurred. In this sense
also there is unlikely to be universal agreement on whether
restructuring has taken place. Those who need the buzz
of constantly claiming new concepts to describe old processes will no doubt continue to throw the restructuring
tag at single-sector changes they describe as important.
For us, the implication of this is that we need to inquire
about the character of restructuring, rather than identifying &big change' and crying &restructuring'.

The problem with undertaking such an analysis is

speci"cation of the dimensions along which to base
evaluation. Many dimensions are potentially relevant,
even if some might be nested within broader relevant
categories. As our aim is to generate debate rather than
provide a comprehensive review, we use broad categories, from one perspective, in order to illustrate the argument in this paper. In this regard we draw on the
regulation theory base that Cloke and Goodwin (1992b)
outline, in which they assess transformations along the
three dimensions of economic change, socio-cultural recomposition and re-engineering the role of the state. This
categorisation is similar to that of Marsden (1996), who
referred to production}consumption relations, social relations and social action, and the social construction of
institutions and power. In their intent both schemes are
similar, although we prefer more commonly employed
titles to capture their essence. These are found in central
dimensions of social organisation; namely, (capitalist)
market relationships, the state and civil society. We accept these are not mutually exclusive, but do not think
social categories can ever claim this distinction. Principally, these are heuristic devices.
What draws us to regulation theory is the importance
it attaches to the state. We do not wish to mislead the
reader into thinking the state is a primary determinant of
social change. Examine reports on major societal transformations, such as those in Eastern Europe, and you
"nd a key message is the inability of the state to control
major change processes (e.g. AgoH cs and AgoH cs, 1994;
Bihari et al., 1994; Alanen, 1999). Add to this the constraints globalisation processes place on state action. Yet,
as theoretical debate (Evans et al., 1985; Block, 1987) and
empirical material con"rm (e.g. Dawson, 1986; Hoggart
et al., 1995), whether due to state processes as such or as
a result of cultural, economic and social processes articulated within particular territories, state-speci"c nuances
and characterisations do impose themselves on broad
societal processes (e.g. Shortall, 1999; Tanaka et al.,
1999). This does not mean that local divergence does
not exist, but within the limits of this paper we will
largely restrict our comments to state-level patterns,
rather than dwelling on intra-national variety. In this
regard the aim for the rest of this paper is to ask whether
rural restructuring can be said to have occurred in England.
Restricting attention to one country is deliberate, for
the simple reason that we do not want to be drawn
toward the enticements of over-generalisation, which occurs enough within commentaries on single countries, let
alone when we extend our vision across continents. Our
intention is not to make this a parochial paper, but to lay
down prompts and provocations that might make others
consider how far restructuring is occurring in other contexts, as well as challenging our interpretation of the
English scene. In stating this as an objective, the reader

K. Hoggart, A. Paniagua / Journal of Rural Studies 17 (2001) 41}62

could legitimately cry foul! Having just devoured a few

forests arguing that there is no single vision of restructuring, how can we seek to assess its magnitude? Although
our aim is to prompt others, we are not seeking to
disorient completely. To provide a base from which our
cautions about restructuring interpretations can
draw common threads we wish to look through the prism
of a political economy perspective. This is the most
developed perspective in the literature on restructuring,
which we hope will provide common ground for
interpretation. Starting from this shared base, we
wish to question whether, even from this single perspective, the literature has not been over-indulgent in proclaiming the depth and breadth of societal change
in rural areas. If our interpretations are shaky from
a more established perspective, we should recognise
they are doubly uncertain, given the neglect of other

4. Capitalist market relationships

For Lovering (1989), the use of the concept restructuring has three dimensions in the literature. First, it refers
to the way capitalists respond to competition by changing production and supply practices, as well as products
themselves. Second, it draws out how these changes impact on the spatial organisation of economic activity.
Finally, it focuses on how the resulting spatial division of
labour is fed into the geography of social relationships.
The path through these dimensions highlights the central
place commentators have given to the causal role of
production relationships * to a political economy centred vision of restructuring. This emphasis is very clear in
publications on rural restructuring. Take as one illustration the edited book Rural Restructuring, in which three
of the seven chapters focus directly on the agricultural
sector, with another on labour market change (Marsden
et al., 1990). Chapters on social class, household production and rural identity provide a stronger element of civil
society inputs, but consideration of the state comes more
in passing than as a central interest. The heavier focus is
on production issues. This is a general bias in the literature.
This is perhaps to be expected for rural areas, for many
analysts portray primary sector activities as key distinguishing features of the countryside. In this regard, for
many, rural restructuring is fuelled by a fall in the economic centrality of agriculture (and forestry). This decline is expressed in employment (Errington and
Harrison, 1990), in the lesser role of farming in food
production (Munton, 1992) and in the declining in#uence
of farm production in total farm family income (Ilbery
and Bowler, 1998). That such change is viewed as
profound, so meriting the designation &restructuring' or
even &crisis' (Drummond et al., 2000), is evident in com-


mentaries on the usurpation of agrarian dominance, even

if some commentators caution that the scale of upheaval
or crisis is far from certain (Hill, 1999):

The increasing insinuation of non-farming interests

in rural areas and the building of pressures to liberalise
farm supports signal the demise of agrarian capitalism
as the key instrument of rural management. In its stead
there has emerged a fragmentation of localistic orientations as individual rural communities and areas
express their speci"c consumption and rural development needs. (Marsden et al., 1993, p. 13)
The tone seems to suggest that, rather than farmers
being principally concerned with farm output, they have
become embroiled in the uncertainties and complexities
of economic diversi"cation (e.g. Evans and Ilbery, 1996;
Carter, 1999), along with growing demands for more
environmentally friendly production (e.g. Ilbery and
Bowler, 1998; Winter, 2000). At the same time, there has
been an assertion of new economic activities that lessen
the distinctive edge of &traditional' rural endeavours. The
notion of the country craftsman, whose productive practices contrast with the mass production techniques of the
city (Williams, 1958), has been replaced by greater uniformity of practice. True there is growth in craft activities,
like pottery production or painting, but this is occurring
in city and countryside alike. Indeed, in his comparison
of new businesses in England, Westhead (1995) found no
di!erence in business operations in town and country,
excepting that rural owners were more inclined to have
less experience in their sphere of operations. Westhead
also concluded that employment growth in rural "rms
was less than elsewhere, which seems to contradict
Keeble and associates (1992). But what underlies this
di!erence is a dissimilar "eld of vision. The work of
Keeble and associates included "rms owned by non-local
owners * multi-plant operations * whereas Westhead
did not. The contrasting results of these studies highlight
one impact of increased non-local control on rural employment. Rural economic functions are being transformed by the in-migration of new factories and by the
establishment of new enterprises by in-migrants (e.g.
Williams et al., 1989; Stockdale et al., 2000), but resulting
employment heralds a stronger non-local #avour in the
exercise of &direct power' over rural economies. How far
this is critical is open to question. There is a well-established literature (e.g. Stewart, 1976), albeit perhaps in
need of refreshment and re"nement, suggesting that absentee-ownership is associated with lower local linkages
and a greater propensity for closure than locally owned
enterprises. But as Slee (1994) makes clear, both endogenous and exogenous development depend on external
markets and inputs. The fact that endogenous development o!ers more scope for local cultural, economic and


K. Hoggart, A. Paniagua / Journal of Rural Studies 17 (2001) 41}62

social infusions should not detract from recognition that

it is a form of &dependent development'. Indeed, given
the propensity for smaller "rms to face closure,
marginal di!erences in the impact of external and local
ownership are likely to be of minor importance compared with heightened market instabilities heralded by
Perhaps this situation di!ers from the time when agriculture dominated local economies, as farm failures were
less inclined to result in the removal of a productive
activity, given that farmland readily found buyers to
employ its potential for food production. This is no
longer the case and, as enterprises in other sectors close,
their chances of "nding replacement operators who keep
the productive unit operating are slimmer. After all,
within the UK, economic processes that engender replacement of failed enterprises and encourage new "rm
creation in economically productive "elds still feel the
strong pull of agglomeration economies (e.g. Bennett et
al., 1999). This should not diminish the importance of
long-established shifts in manufacturing employment
from urban to rural areas (e.g. Keeble et al., 1983), nor the
high rate of employment growth in rural zones compared
with their city counterparts (e.g. Breheny, 1995). But if
Bennett and associates (1999) are correct, the dynamic
core of the national economy still grunts an urban tune.
Further, if Mitchell and Clark (1999) conclusions can be
extended, then all the hu! and pu! about rural employment diversi"cation needs recasting to recognise that
a broadening in the economic base does not mean rural
areas have lost the stigma of being venues for low-paid,
low-skilled work, with minimal technologically driven
enterprises. The resulting restricted employment opportunities are something those with an eye to gender issues
have sought to highlight for some time (e.g. Little, 1994).
But what of the amenity appeal for high-tech industry?
Well it might be important, but it is notable that studies
of this phenomenon seem to be distinguished by the
importance they attach to proximity to nearby urban
centres (e.g. Gould and Keeble, 1984; Hall et al., 1987).
More generally, in fact, and as much for population
change as for units of employment (e.g. Champion and
Congdon, 1992), we "nd a ripple e!ect of economic
transformation associated with urban proximity.
The message is not that amenity-rich environments
have not played a part in recharging rural economies but
that we need to be careful not to exaggerate the character
and spread of these e!ects. The more obvious impact of
amenity-rich environments has been in accelerating recreation and tourism expansion. Here changes are complex and potentially profound. In a context of agrarian
decline, there are understandable e!orts to foster tourism
growth (e.g. Council of Europe, 1988). However, the
nature of tourism promotion is deeply embroiled in the
manipulation and packaging of images and experiences
that cultivate a &product' (e.g. Cohen, 1988; Ehrentraut,

1996). This involves sanitising and commodifying rural

life (e.g. Squire, 1993), so as to enhance the countryside as
a place of consumption, with scant regard for its role in
production (Urry, 1995). Duckers and Davies (1990, p.
164) capture the sentiment well:

In this Disneyland vision of the countryside both the

agricultural purpose of the land and appreciation of
the beauty of the countryside itself are obscured in
favour of a series of saleable and marketable leisure
&attractions'. In an increasingly urban society, the visitor, whose experience is disconnected from the working life of the countryside, is o!ered an easily digestible
and interpreted version of it. The countryside is now
a commodity available for commercial exploitation.
The more able farmers are becoming businessmen [or
The promotion of recreation and tourism also emphasises how the fortunes of particular locations are dependent on non-local populations. Agents sell the
countryside as the &backyard' of &outsiders' who wish to
enjoy its &sanctity' (Urry, 1995). This heightens the prospect of con#ict between the search for production gains
(farms, factories) and the desire to consume the countryside (with this con#ict embedded in the same person at
times). Exceptions to processes which commodify and
sanitise do exist, but tend to be restricted to less environmentally attractive areas, some of which have been captured in earlier eras by the state for less socially
acceptable activities (e.g. Davies, 1978; Woodward, 1999).
The restructuring of capitalist production practices is
seen to involve a diminution of the role of agriculture,
with farm diversi"cation, especially as associated with
recreation and tourism, being a key change element. The
qualitative transformation that is associated with what
some see as the &de-agriculturalisation' of rural
economies is accompanied by change in manufacturing
activity, with opportunities for economic change enhanced in more environmentally attractive zones. At one
level these changes represent little that is di!erent from
the past.
This is exempli"ed by the actions of farmers. For one,
on examination the much-touted shift towards a more
consumerist and environmentally friendly farm sector is
contradicted by evidence that farmers are not passive
agents, but resist change or creatively recreate themselves
in a manner of their own choosing (e.g. Gray, 1996; Lowe
and Ward, 1997). When the diversi"cation of farm activities is put under the microscope, surprise, surprise, we
"nd farmers are more prone to diversify into production
activities than into consumer services (e.g. Ilbery et al.,
1997; Carter, 1999). The impression farm diversi"cation
makes on rural economic change is also rather limited,
with Townroe and Mallalieu (1993) noting that only 6%

K. Hoggart, A. Paniagua / Journal of Rural Studies 17 (2001) 41}62

of new rural businesses are linked to farm diversi"cation.

Added to which, shifts in farm production are not resulting in fundamental production realignments, given relatively meagre change in production patterns (e.g.
Walford, 1999). As for farmers becoming more environmentally sensitive, pull the other one seems an appropriate comment. It is to be expected that environmental
issues are peripheral to agricultural policy-making in
Brussels (Winter, 2000), given that current projections
foresee a doubling in the global demand for food by the
year 2025 (Vega et al., 1999). Yet it also appears that
environmental sentiments have failed to embed themselves in most farmers' values (e.g. Buller et al., 1999). On the
one hand, there is a clear suggestion that those adopting
more environmentally sensitive farming practices have
values that &naturally' predispose them toward such
strategies (e.g. Gilg and Battershill, 1997). On the other
hand, &environmentally friendly' actions by many farmers
commonly appear to be a response to market or income
opportunities that perchance bring environmental gain
(e.g. Bruckmeier and Grund, 1994; Kaltoft, 1999). Then
there are the so-called &super-productivist' farms, which
commentators at conferences increasingly make reference to, although as yet their numerical and productive
importance does not appear to be well documented. All
this does not mean that the economic situation of farms
has not changed substantially. There has clearly been
a shift into more economic enterprises (i.e. diversi"cation;
Carter, 1999; Walford, 1999), although frankly after years
of avaricious cost-price squeeze embraces it would be
more surprising if diversi"cation had not occurred (Hill
and Ray, 1987). Certainly, it is now inappropriate to
restrict attention to farm commodity sales if we wish to
understand farm household income (Hill, 1999). This,
however, is no di!erent from the major transformation
of farm incomes occasioned by greater government
intervention after the Second World War (Short
and Watkins, 1999). Of course diversi"cation and

 A good example of this is provided by Monk (1999), who notes how

organic practices are being adopted in some conventional farm/farm
processor activities, because they have been shown to improve the
economics of conventional production and processing practices. We
also note, from an interview of a Farmers+ Weekly representative in the
BBC Radio 4 Programme &Today' (25 March 2000) that a key explanation for trials of GM crops in the UK confounding expectations, by
easily securing the number of trial sites required for the year 2000 (when
predictions of huge shortfalls were rampant), is that manufacturers
guaranteed farmers an income per hectare three times greater than the
norm for crop production. Economic enticement it seems can draw
farmers into ecologically sound or ecologically contentious production
practices * money talks! But we should add that the gains farmers seek
are not always economic. As Tovey (1997) makes clear, in Ireland the
acceptance of ecological orientations amongst farmers is in part conditioned by concern that failure to do so will lead to control of the
countryside falling into the hands of &urban' groups, like environmental
scientists and landscape managers.


half-hearted attempts to instil more environmental inputs into farming are not the only changes seen in the
sector. Growing demands for improved food quality,
associated not simply with environmentalism but also
health, cannot be ignored (e.g. Banks and Marsden, 1999;
Ilbery and Kneafsey, 2000; Morris and Young, 2000).
But we are not at all persuaded by the clamour to call
such shifts a transformation of fundamental values away
from production toward consumption (Marsden, 1999).
To raise just one point to symbolise our discomfort, note
how, even in the ethically puri"ed atmosphere of opinion
poll surveys, only 33% of Europeans claim they would
pay a little more for food in order to protect the environment. About the same percentage say they would not pay

 On this score we would note in passing the reported 60% increase

in the incidence of food poisoning in Britain since the early 1980s, which
Nottingham (1998, p.184) holds is a common trend in the advanced
economies. Hardly surprising that European consumers are concerned
about food safety. Thus, in a Eurobarometer survey (volume 48, 1997) on
the CAP, the top policy priority for the general population was guaranteeing food safety (89% felt this was important), with ensuring a decent
income for farmers only securing the "fth highest priority. For us, such
calls for improved food quality do not primarily result from heightened
consumption emphases but owe more to recent food scares. Health
issues are not a new element in food production, but have had determining impacts on the location and character of production for a long,
long period of time (e.g. Atkins, 1977). The fact our eyes are drawn
toward health scares at the moment should not distract us from recognising that the farm sector has been subject to ongoing pressure and
stringent legal requirements to improve health standards for many,
many decades. In stating this we do not wish to downplay the importance of health concerns in food consumption, nor do we want to ignore
the complexity of citizen views. In the same Eurobarometer survey, for
instance, the policy dimensions that were graded second, third and
fourth most important for the CAP were guaranteeing animals are well
treated, "ghting fraud in farm payments and balancing economic
growth with the environment. The variety of responses here indicates
that we cannot capture the varying strands of citizen concern under an
imagery of increased dominance by consumption issues. Moreover, we
have to question how far food (quality) issues provide good evidence of
a shift toward a consumption-oriented countryside. For one, if the
conclusions of Ilbery and Kneafsey (2000) are generalisable, then the
&quality' producers seek is de"ned less by consumers and o$cial stipulations, such as health standards, and more by production and sales
criteria that are convenient to themselves. Add to this evidence on
consumer ideas of food safety. In a 1998 Eurobarometer survey (volume
49), the two food items consumers were most satis"ed with in safety
terms were bread/bakery products and cheese. The lowest levels of
satisfaction were recorded for prepared meals, other pre-packaged food
products, canned food and frozen food (the "rst two of these recorded
more dissatis"ed than satis"ed views). Sandwiched between these two
extremes were as variety of fresh foods. The extremes in the complete
list of food items were processed commodities commonly prepared in
towns and cities (e.g. bread, canned food). The middle ground belongs
to commodities that are little altered after leaving the farm. If we take
concerns over food safety as signs of a consumption-orientation, it
strikes us this is tied more to production in urban centres than the
countryside (albeit we note major di!erences between nations here, with
82% of UK citizens * the third largest within the EU * con"dent
about food safety, compared with just 53% in Greece and 54% in


K. Hoggart, A. Paniagua / Journal of Rural Studies 17 (2001) 41}62

more on anything to protect the environment (Commission of the European Communities, 1999). Also note the
way some farm groups use fears over health and safety to
enhance their market position (Ventura and van der
Meulen, 1994; Banks and Marsden, 1997; Nyga rd and
Storstad, 1998). Is this any di!erent from the past emphasis on production and sales? The advertising strategies
are di!erent. There are marginal di!erences in content,
but is there more than this? We would like to be persuaded.
We fail to be enamoured by many claims about contemporary agricultural restructuring partly because past
transformations of rural economies have been so
profound (e.g. Perry, 1974; Short and Watkins, 1999).
This cautions us against readily accepting that current
changes are as profound as the literature suggests. For
one, we are not persuaded by the implicit message that
farmers are now bu!eted by external forces that are
somehow &original', especially in the manner in which
they sing a consumption tune. Rural economies have
long been driven by the demands of non-local markets, as
agricultural depression in the late nineteenth-century
showed (Perren, 1995). Positive changes are also commonly induced by &outsiders' who move into rural locales, to occupy the paradoxical position of &evil' outsider
but &good' rural citizen (Burnett, 1998). Pressures to
change production practices to meet the requirements of
non-local populations have also been long-felt. We have
yet to be convinced that urban consumers in general are
consumption driven (even if we accept this "ts some).
Continuing demands for cheap food seems to be the
primary order of the day, irrespective of what the chattering classes in Hampstead might say, and even given the
fragmentation of food markets (Murdoch and Miele,
1999). Our sense is that the economic problems of contemporary agricultural production, alongside highly
publicised health scares, the reality of diversi"cation and
the lame but (for academics apparently fashionable) minimalist appeasement toward heightened environmental
sensitivity, have distracted interpretations from how
partial many &new trends' have been, alongside how endemic change itself is in the sector. In this we are

 Consider Evans's (1997) comments of how agri-environmental

schemes are adjusted and directed more by Exchequer considerations
than by real environmental management concerns.
 We are also troubled by the ideological association of recent economic change with a farming crisis. If we interpret &crisis' as a threat to
the economic foundations of the farm population, then a greater crisis
for us was the discarding of hundreds of thousands of farm labourers in
earlier decades (Hoggart, 2000). Even if some labourers &#ed' gratefully,
for many &discarded' with little opportunity of securing other local
employment appears to be an accurate description (e.g. Drudy, 1978).
Perhaps farm output little changed after these losses. If so, this reinforces our concern, for in the midst of contemporary agricultural
trauma little has also changed for farm outputs (Walford, 1999).

reminded of FML Thompson's (1991, p. 218) conclusion

on another major agricultural disturbance, the so-called
great depression of the late 19th century: `Historians
have perhaps too easily equated decline with depression,
or at least confused two processes which are in
principle distincta. Our sense is that contemporary
analysts are in danger of confusing change and hardship
with restructuring. For us, the pace of most agricultural
change is slower than the literature suggests (especially
compared with the postwar years; Short and Watkins,
1999), while qualitative dimensions of change
are more muted than academic and populist accounts
Within the rural environment, we also feel sceptical
about the fundamental character of shifts toward consumption. Is the economic shift toward recreation and
tourism really such a fundamental economic re-ordering?
Look back only a few decades and farmers and landowners were embracing recreational and consumptiondriven activities in order to secure economic advantage
for themselves (Mandler, 1997; Moore-Colyer, 1999). At
that time, change from what was primarily a farm-led
local economy seems to have been more profound than
the quantitative hikes in tourism jobs that exist today
(e.g. see Bourne, 1912). As for the idea that rural economies are fundamentally changed by the instability inherent in external economic control, we are reminded
again of the late 19th century agricultural recession. You
do not need control to cause economic instability, capitalist markets do this on their own. Moreover, we should
not forget that the backbone of much of the rural economy was for a long time built around a speci"c urban}rural integration (or local-non-local, if you prefer),
as expressed in the power of large absentee (or semiabsentee) landowners (e.g. Beckett, 1986; Cannadine,
1990). Moreover, as various commentators have recognised, within rural areas Fordism only had a light touch
(e.g. Goodwin et al., 1995), which questions the capacity
for these areas to experience a fundamental transformation into post-Fordism. That said, there is little doubt
that rural economies have become less dependent on
farming and associated service activities. Today the economic balance of the English countryside is little di!erent
from the nation as a whole (see Countryside Agency,
1999, p. 13), which is a startling observation given the
situation only a few decades ago. In this very real sense
the rural economy has changed beyond recognition in
a relatively short period of time, or it has in a quantitative
sense, even if less so in terms of the qualitative character
of the jobs on o!er. In this context we might remind
ourselves of how insecure the income base of many rural
residents was in the past (e.g. Hussey, 1997), before going
on to note that it less uncertain now but that insecurity is
still an endemic feature (Phimister et al., 2000). We do not
question that quantitative change has occurred, but the
magnitude of qualitative change seems exaggerated (e.g.

K. Hoggart, A. Paniagua / Journal of Rural Studies 17 (2001) 41}62

Tovey, 2000). In many arenas, we "nd heavy traces of the

past in current changes, rather than fundamental trans"guration.

5. Changing state processes5

As Ray (1999) has recently reminded us, rural development as a category cannot be distinguished from urban
development. The integration of key processes in societal
transformation across di!erent spaces makes it di$cult
to disentangle cause and e!ect in a space-centred way. In
this regard, when referring to &rural restructuring' we are
not drawing attention to processes that are causally
grounded in rural areas (or what people believe to be
rural areas), but to change within rural spaces. Left to
itself, this statement has the potential to confuse, as it
implies that we can draw conclusions about &rural restructuring' by restricting attention to broad societal
change. However, as Urry (1984) argued long ago, the
local cannot be taken as the national (or inter-national)
writ small. Change experienced at a local level might be
driven by broader forces, but this does not mean it is
accepted uncritically or unaltered at the local level, nor
does it deny the prospect of inter-local disparities in
response to the same impetus. We suspect most people
would be happy with using a &rural restructuring' label
for processes that are causally embedded within rural
areas, but suspect some would be uncomfortable if processes were predominantly generated at the national level
with little deviation in e!ect at the local level. In looking
for restructuring potentialities, therefore, we need to ask
whether there are local manifestations in national (or
inter-national) change processes. There is no doubt these
can be found.
Take, as one illustration, the 1974 reorganisation of
English local government. This eradicated the rather
cosy clubs called Rural District Councils in a manner
that has happened in relatively few countries. After 1974,
with close to 50 million people, England and Wales had
just over 400 district councils. With a somewhat similar
population, France had around 36,000 communes
(28,000 of which had fewer than 2000 residents; MeH ny,
1983). Spain might have a smaller population but it has
more than 8000 municipalities (three-quarters with less
than 2000 inhabitants; SoleH Vilanova, 1989). In the USA
there are 19,000 municipalities, with around half having
less than 1000 people (Harrigan, 1999). The shift to larger
governmental units signi"cantly changed local electoral

 As indicated above, the main dimensions of this paper overlap. This

section primarily looks at power relations centred on local state institutions, not the regulation of economic sectors (e.g. Banks and Marsden,
1997), for which comments in the previous section are relevant.


arrangements in England, with the formerly rare event of

an election in some rural wards now becoming a regular
occurrence. Illustrative of this is a fall in the percentage of
county councillors in Hampshire who were Lords, Ladies, Baronets, Dukes or Earls from 8.5% in 1973 to zero
by 1988 (Hoggart, 1991, p. 187). Larger local government
areas helped homogenise political representation, by incorporated former rural authorities into urban-centred
districts; bringing party politics into many, formerly
non-partisan, rural areas for the "rst time (Bristow, 1978;
Dearlove, 1979). Through greater integration with urban
centres, organisational change threatened to ring the
deathknell of traditional rural power structures, with
their heavy bias toward landed interests (Dyer, 1978;
Newby et al., 1978). Yet few studies have examined the
evolution of political practices in rural authorities following local government reorganisation (a few cover a longer
time period; e.g. Woods, 1997a). The absence of such
investigations complicates evaluations of the nature of
political change. For one, investigations have revealed
traces of past landed dominance under the new local
government system (e.g. Gilg and Kelly, 1997). Yet analysts also identify locations that experienced a gradual
undermining of traditional rural elites, so administrative
reorganisation largely capped a well-established trend
(see Johnson, 1972; Woods, 1997a). As their wealth faded,
many landed elites followed the same path, abandoning
the countryside to a new rural population, whose willingness to consume chunks of landed estates hastened the
former owners #ight (Cannadine, 1990; Mandel, 1997).
The point is that change took place over many decades,
as economic decline and the refocusing of investment into
new sectors occurred unevenly amongst landed families.
Just like the large cities, as the local economic interests of
the wealthy waned, especially if the national arena had
a strong pull, elites who dominated local economic, political and social a!airs extracted themselves from local
government (Morris and Newton, 1970). Local political
culture seemingly became more &democratised', if only in
terms of being biased toward the (more numerous)
middle classes rather than the upper classes or major
local employers.
In some areas, of course, landed interests still retained
control, if only in the form of farmers rather than estate
owners (e.g. Rose et al., 1976). In some guises, this farmer
control did not succumb to 1974 reorganisation e!ects.
Thus, while local authorities lost control of water supply
and distribution to regional water authorities in that
year, analysts have reported that the new regional
authorities were captured by farm interests (e.g. Saunders, 1983). Today, this imagery is coming under threat.
At one level this is seen in challenges to the modus
operandi of farmers, especially concerning environmental
issues (e.g. Seymour et al., 1997). Within local government itself, changes in political representation have likewise led to new value dispositions, with aesthetic


K. Hoggart, A. Paniagua / Journal of Rural Studies 17 (2001) 41}62

considerations gaining higher priority. As Duckers and

Davies (1990, p. 129) expressed it:

Ultimately it is an indulgence of a%uence to be able to

care about the look of the village. In old Exton or
Barrowden no one could care less what the place
looked like, it was home and work. Along with the
wish to preserve the old, comes an equally hawkish
attitude to the new.
Con#icts between &new' and &traditional' values have
recently come to the fore in the actions and propaganda
of the Countryside Alliance and various other newly
formed rural lobbies, with the call to preserve traditional
values couched as resistance to an &invasion' of alien
metropolitan values (e.g. Hart-Davis, 1997; George,
1999). However, this sleight of hand should not be allowed to go unchallenged, as such con#icts are as much
about intra-rural division as city-countryside di!erences
(e.g. Woods, 1997b). Moreover, the country dweller
seems more than happy to embrace &eco-warriors' who
bring expertise, daring and much needed publicity to
confront what are often NIMBY-related local oppositions to construction projects (Doherty, 1998; Griggs et
al., 1998). What this reveals is little more than a rather
shabby disguising of self-interest in the cloth of higher
sounding objectives. In this regard, what is new? As Rose
and associates (1976), amongst many others, have shown,
the &traditional' middle class elite of rural areas has long
concealed self-seeking behind seemingly laudable platforms. We also do not see much by way of change in
contemporary &challenges' to dominant rural interests.
Yes &movements' like &The Land is Ours' might appear to
be novel but we really have seen all this before (Cook,
1977). Now as then changes to rural space that access
movements propose are important but they are hardly
restructuring rural space.
But let us stand back from these ideas to re#ect. First,
it is necessary to do this because of the various ruralities
that exist. This point is embodied in Marsden's (1998)
distinction between clientelist, paternalist, contested and
preserved countrysides. We might be seeing some general
change trends, as in the imposition of more liberal values
(what some incorrectly call more &urban' values), but
these are not engaging with a level countryside playing
"eld. The vision that a key element of state restructuring
in the countryside is the overthrow of a farmer-dominated local hegemony is a dangerous image to cling to.
For one thing, it is inaccurate for some places, as the
 For one, even those whose land is a regular venue for foxhunting
tolerate the hunt rather than seeing it as a fundamental rural icon
(Baker and Macdonald, 2000), while supporters' proclamations about
the economic importance of the hunt seem dubious (Ward, 1999; UK
Home Department, 2000).

countryside has long been a heterogeneous political landscape. No matter what you think of Surrey, it has major
countryside belts that have not been farmer-dominated
for many decades (Connell, 1978). Even the Labour Party
has given a distinctive branding to some rural locales (e.g.
Ryder, 1984). Moreover, the power of the farm lobby is
easy to exaggerate. As Winter (1997) makes clear, even
agricultural policy debates have long been conducted
with little reference to farmers and their views of the
world. In the past a &special relationship' might have
existed between the farm community and the state (Self
and Storing, 1962), but let us not extend this imagery
beyond its sell-by-date. Vestiges of exceptionalism exist
but these have been eroded over time, especially after the
UK joined the EU (Grant, 1995). By imbuing farmer
control with a halo of being &the established order', commentators are ignoring history. In many areas farmerdominated local politics represents little more than
a short-term transition from one (landed) form of political control to another (which is bureaucratised, urbancentred and service class led).
Set against this, there have been major transformations in rural governance in the past 20 years. It matters
little if many of these have their origins in national
government decisions. Whether through the mechanism
of privatisation (Bell and Cloke, 1989), changes in modes
of regulation (Bell and Cloke, 1991), the creation of new
organisations or adjusted roles for old ones (Milbourne,
1998; Jones and Little, 2000) or the opening up of new
lines of access to policy objectives (e.g. Black and Conway, 1995; Ward and McNicholas, 1998), the local sphere
of governance in rural England has become more &complicated'. This has undoubtedly led to operational changes, as seen in the diminution of &pure' state activity
through the rise of public}private partnerships, and the
invention and reinvention of rural institutions as advocacy channels (e.g. Ray, 1997; Woods, 1998). Such changes have created a loud hue and cry amongst many
commentators, especially urban local authorities (e.g.
Parkinson, 1985). But have these changes really led to so
fundamental a rural transformation? A good reason why
opposition to change has been so notable, from some
quarters, is that local governments have seen their freedom of action constrained signi"cantly, so there is less
scope for &genuine' local governance (e.g. Wolman, 1988).
But rural local governments have long been fairly minimalist in their activities (e.g. Madgwick et al., 1973; Rose et
al., 1976; Dyer, 1978), so these constraints are hardly
likely to impinge in major ways. Take, for example, the
creation of partnerships. These are proclaimed to empower local communities. Yet preliminary evidence (in
England and Ireland) suggests these initiatives look more
like a top-down model, that is inclined to expose communities to heightened insecurity rather than empowering
them, as well as having questionable e$cacy as a form of
rural governance (Curtin, 1994; Storey, 1999; Jones and

K. Hoggart, A. Paniagua / Journal of Rural Studies 17 (2001) 41}62

Little, 2000). The manner in which local institutions are

adopting overtly extra-local imageries and action strategies is a change worth noting (Ray, 1997; Woods, 1998;
Gray, 2000), but does this represent something that is
fundamentally di!erent in terms of e!ective local action
and the e!ects of local governance? There are certainly
studies which reveal little is changing, despite new programmes, organisations or policies (e.g. Clark et al.,
1997). In truth, however, despite increased attention to
rural governance (e.g. see the special issue of the Journal
of Rural Studies, vol. 14, part 1), we still lack a solid
empirical base from which to derive clear judgements
about change in state action in rural areas (Goodwin,
1998). That said, our reading of the English setting leads
us to conclude that adjustments in state processes have
been less substantive in rural areas than market and civil
society transformations. This does not mean change has
not occurred. However, what we see is changing the
colour of the paint, rather than the construction of the
building. After all, if perhaps not on quite the same scale,
we have seen new rural institutions touting new regulatory arrangements before (e.g. Clout, 1971). We have also
seen rural development prospects penetrated by dependency on external government funding (Hodge and
Whitby, 1981), while pressures for the centralisation of
rural services have a long history (Gilder, 1979). It is not
that changes are not occurring, more that they do not
strike us as crucially transformative. When we do see
change, we trace elements more to adjustments in the
population, to which we now turn.

6. Changes in civil society

The basis for assuming that rural civil societies are
being restructured draws largely on the commuter-belt
and counterurbanisation literature. In#ows of population are today (relatively) large, with in-migrants seeking
to capture the essence of an idyllic (or at least more
harmonious, &natural', less frenzied and safer) lifestyle
(e.g. Bell, 1994; Valentine, 1997). Few are &drop-outs'
seeking an &alternative lifestyle' (Perry et al., 1986). Owing
to the purchasing power of in-migrants, local manual
workers are priced out of local housing. The composition
of the countryside thereby becomes more professional
and managerial, with manual workers increasingly having to take homes in (small or large) towns (e.g. Shucksmith, 1991; Hoggart, 1997b; Chaney and Sherwood,
2000). The prevailing orthodoxy regarding trends in rural
civil society is captured by Murdoch and Marsden (1994,
p. 232):

The rural domain is reassuring to the middle class. It

is a place where gender and ethnic identities can be
anchored in &traditional' ways, far (but not far enough?)


from the fragmented, &mixed-up' city. Within the rural

domain identities are "xed, making it a white, English,
family orientated, middle-class space2.
At one level, the new middle class in#ow is producing
a social environment that is distinct from the past. The
paternalism that characterised so much of rural England
(tinged in parts with elements of clientelism; Murdoch,
1995), has been transformed into a more preservationist
social order (Murdoch and Marsden, 1994; Seymour et
al., 1997). Whether in commuter territory (Murdoch and
Marsden, 1994), lowland farming areas (Bell, 1994) or
remoter rural zones (Forsythe, 1980), in-migrants are
seen to introduce an idealised rural lifestyle that penetrates their actions on arrival. The hoped-for achievement appears to be a mythical rurality of old, even if the
bounties that #ow from this mythology are restricted to
certain members of a household (e.g. Little and Austin,
1996; Matthews et al., 2000). In this sense, whatever social
&restructuring' is occurring does not come across as too
profound. Although the bulk of the rural population
might not recognise or wish to acknowledge its recent
manifestations, the literature records how high social
standing continues to be retained by &local nobility' after
they lose their landed estates (on Squire Wilkes, see
Robin, 1980, p. xvi). Associated with slow changing legacies, much of the literature points to rural zones being
associated with more traditional gender roles than elsewhere (e.g. Stebbing, 1982; Little, 1994). The very aura of
&rurality' is said to be associated in English eyes with
traditional, nuclear family structures, in which traditional sexual, familial and ethnic relations are (re)assessed (Murdoch, 1995). None of these patterns are
suggestive of active restructuring processes. Rather they
suggest entrenched conservatism.
But we need to be careful over this interpretation.
Although in-migrants might believe &idyll' is etched all
over the countryside, on arrival they often "nd (or generate) social con#ict or at least generate less cooperation
and social exchange than was said to exist formerly. Pahl
(1964) was among the "rst to draw attention to this in
England but more recent expositions show it retains
potency. As a female council house dweller described the
local Women's Institute to Bell (1994, p.73): &They're not
friendly to ordinary women2It's all rich ladies who
have nothing better to do than be catty with each other.
It's sad really'. Such antagonism is not restricted to those
already in the village, but is applied to those who seek to
join its ranks (Cloke and Thrift, 1987). This antagonism is
part and parcel of a cultural aura that is restrictive in
appeal, presents an unwelcome vista for some (e.g. Kinsman, 1995) or overtly resists the presence of those who
are seen not to &"t in' (e.g. Jay, 1992; Halfacree, 1996).
Signi"cantly, while these points seem well established in
the literature, as Shucksmith and Chapman (1998) argue,
processes of social exclusion (and inclusion) are little


K. Hoggart, A. Paniagua / Journal of Rural Studies 17 (2001) 41}62

understood in rural Britain; with scant regard for the

pathways that lead to &exclusion'.
But let us raise a di!erent question, which is whether
these processes are that new, or is it simply that researchers have recently begun to write about them?
There is a danger that we as researchers idealise the past
in the same way rural in-migrants are held to do. For
one, various studies have identi"ed low levels of neighbourhood cooperation, such as exchanges of farm labour,
that were well entrenched before any middle class &invasion' (Williams, 1956; Harris, 1972; Bouquet, 1981). As
Rapport (1993, p.5) described the situation: &There is a lot
of bickering over land and houses. The natives quarrel
with the newcomers * whether working or retired or
second homers. And the farmers compete with each other
for every spare "eld2'. Perhaps &newcomers' have added
an edge but it is unclear how much things have changed,
once the contrast is made is between &general village life'
before and after large middle class in#ows (as opposed to
tensions between newcomers and others during times of
high in#ows). Taking this point a bit further, many commentaries seem to ignore or be unaware of studies that
show little evidence of con#ict between newcomers and
longer term residents (e.g. Harris, 1974). They appear to
neglect evidence that rural populations changed rapidly
long before large-scale service class in#ows (e.g. Williams,
1963), with evidence in some villages pointing to the
whole population being so new that newcomer-established divisions are inappropriate analytical categories
(Stephenson, 1984). The emphasis in the literature appears to be on service class romanticising of the rural, on
social con#ict, and on how in-migration restricts housing
opportunities for longer term, but poorer local residents.
This means the literature does not give much insight on
how far rural lifestyles have changed over time. Yet part
of the change that has occurred arises because these areas
are &carried' along by broad trends in society rather than
resulting from locally speci"c processes (one result of
which is a shift in demographic composition toward
a more professional and managerial population). We can
say that the socio-demographic composition of the rural
population has changed, and that this has altered the
type of lifestyle rural residents can pursue. Beyond that
we are cautious. We are all too familiar with the common academic #aw of exaggerating change and idealising
rural life (see Day and Fitton, 1975).
 A very obvious caveat to this point, albeit the time frame is long, is
the extension of what we now see as basic services into the countryside.
As Morris-Colyer (1999, p. 108) lists, in the 1951 Census, the residents of
largely rural Rutland were distinguished by living in a situation where
53% of private homes were without piped water, 28% lacked a kitchen
sink, 59% had no WC and 60% could lay claim to no bath. Clearly
there has been substantial change since that time. But how far are these
a result of &restructuring' as opposed to slow social change? Although
we cannot recall any UK studies that make the point so forcefully, the
work of Brody (1973) springs immediately to mind as an example of

The demographic and occupational structure of rural

society is being transformed, but this is said to be associated with a reinforcement of conservative social inclinations. In this regard, social norms might (relatively) be
little di!erent now from those that were enforced on most
rural residents by the paternalistic order of previous
centuries (e.g. Newby, 1987). Yet marked transformation
there has been, at least in terms of the occupational
structure of rural society. With the relative wealth of the
rural population standing higher than in the past, we
should expect social "elds to be greater in geographical
extent. The inner impetus might be conservative, but it is
a conservatism that is grounded less in the locality and
the petit bourgeoisie than in new political cultures that
share elements cross-nationally (e.g. Inglehart, 1990).
For the sake of brevity, let us call a halt to the discussion at this point. Although we want to provoke
readers to think through the implications of the points
made, we do not want to give the wrong impression. As
we stated above, we feel there must be something that is
distinctively locally if we are to use the expression rural
restructuring. We do not deny that major change has
occurred in rural areas * just look at the quality of
housing, of household facilities, of occupational compositions, of age structures, of life expectancy, of the geographical extent of social "elds, and so on, to con"rm
this. However, this does not satisfy us. Firstly, this is
because we see change of this nature occurring nationally, and have yet to be convinced that there is much that
is distinctively rural (save the possible caveat listed below). Secondly, we are left in a quandary over how much
social change has actually occurred, given the relative
absence of research that takes a longer term perspective.
We recognise a few studies that have done this (e.g.
Ambrose, 1974), just as we are aware of studies from the
past that articulate di!erent social networks from those
seen today (e.g. Williams, 1956; Harris, 1974). But we are
also aware of how such images have been exaggerated,
such that the existence of social isolation, stability, neighbourliness and cohesiveness were commonly over-interpreted (see Littlejohn, 1963; Day and Fitton, 1975). Add
to this the fact that a good part of the evidence on rapid
social change focuses on the insertion of new population

Foot note 7 continued

research that shows rural social &disintegration' with no sight of middle
class in#ow. Burnett's (1951) strictures on the impact of farm mechanisation on increasing social isolation on the Canadian Prairies also
merits attention. Perhaps most poignant, however, with restructuring
a"cionados no doubt anticipating how telecommunications improvements will change the social fabric of what remains of traditional rural
communities, is Gallagher's (1961, p. 27) capturing of rural laments
about social disintegration after the introduction of television: &We
never go visitin', always stayin' home glued to the `idiot boxa'. Rural
societies will continue to change, but the transformations they have
gone through already are of a nature that questions whether current
change processes are as profound as often suggested.

K. Hoggart, A. Paniagua / Journal of Rural Studies 17 (2001) 41}62

groups and their supposed novel cultures, without assessing how far values and actions of longer time residents
have changed. The weight of in#ows of higher income
households into villages is commonly identi"ed, and we
expect it to have a telling impact in the longer run. Yet we
note that in many areas a notable portion of in-migrants
are low-income or at least have low incomes after arrival
(e.g. Goodwin et al., 1995). Moreover, if we only look at
what is happening in rural areas we can overplay the
professionalisation of local populations in many locations (partly as the professional and managerial component of the national population rises). Also telling is the
manner in which behavioural disparities between the
incoming and longstanding residents might be of secondary importance compared to the integration of villages
into the social spheres of non-local populations (Stockdale et al., 2000); which is evident even in the local pub
(Bowler and Everitt, 1999). Extending the ideas in these
last two sentences, spatial di!erentiation has to be acknowledged, with the social processes of urban "eld
villages being distinguished in signi"cant ways from places that are prone to attract fewer professional in-migrants (Hoggart, 1997a); albeit these places are
distinguishable at the intra-regional as well as a regional
level. The underlying point we are stumbling to make is
that, acknowledging some unevenness, the behaviour of
longstanding rural residents has probably changed more
due to general trends in society than to the incidence of
in-migration (note from other sources the impact of TV
and income improvements on behaviour; e.g. Gallagher,
1961; Brody, 1973). Further, while its magnitude is still
uncertain, evidence suggests that many in-migrants come
from other rural zones (Herington and Evans, 1979;
Lewis and Sherwood, 1991), which cautions against exaggerating social disjunctures between new and old residents (also Burnett, 1998; Stockdale et al., 2000).
Perhaps those who come from cities play out a pantomime of their own fabricated imagery of what rurality
should be (e.g. Forsythe, 1980), but this seems little di!erent from the rural mythology the majority of English
people appear to cling to (Matless, 1998). If Murdoch
(1995) is right, then the worrying element in all this is the
&reactionary' underpinnings of self-selecting middle class
desires for &a rural life' (on which, Bell's, 1994 reports on
middle class attitudes toward the need for local lowincome housing makes chilling reading). Far from a new

 The point is that, if people are coming from rural areas, then the
social composition of the countryside as a whole is not changing, even if
there is disgruntlement about the arrival of (rural) &outsiders'. Of course,
as the rural population has been increasing through in-migration, we
know that some in-migration is &non-rural'. Our point is more by way of
caution. On our reading, too many commentators seem to imply that
in-migrants are all &non-rural', giving scant regard to return-migrants,
intra-rural migrants, etc.


civil society emerging, the trend seems to be a retrenchment toward old lines of social exclusion. As Newby
(1975, p. 158) reminds us: &The traditional English land
owning class placed an ideological gloss on their monopoly of power within the locality through the concept of
`communitya'. Our fear is that the rising &ideology' of the
countryside as a good place to bring up (middle class)
kids, while parents imagine themselves to live a more
gentile life, is camou#age for a reinvention of past social
discriminations, in which things were hunky-dory for the
middle classes, and rest were unseen or knew their place.
In this regard, environmentalism or conservation might
be a manipulative ideology that is replacing &community'.
Louis Wirth (1938) and Robert Red"eld (1947) might well
be seen as prophets for the future if this restatement leads
to the city being emphasised as an arena of social dynamism and progressive values. Certainly, this vision makes
one of us extremely pleased to live in London.

7. Conclusion
We set out in this paper to be provocative. We "nd
a lot of outputs described as restructuring in the literature to be signi"cant changes in rural areas. Yet we are
troubled by what is meant by restructuring. Our sense is
that analysts have not probed this concept su$ciently. In
particular, we "nd many trends the literature highlights
insu$ciently explored empirically, so the extent to which
change is qualitatively di!erent is not established. Moreover, we see a lack of historical vision in too many
commentaries. Some of the processes now referred to as
restructuring have been with us a long time, albeit having
been re-invented and re-presenting themselves in new
packaging every decade or so. In our view, re-packaging
makes for a good story but re-packaging that lacks
fundamental distinction from the past is not &restructuring'. The new titles that imply signi"cant change * the
notion of a consumption countryside is one example
* capture change but suggest too high a level of transformation; at least in terms of producing su$cient evidence to support a claim of fundamental qualitative
change. If we "nd this for rural England, the rationale for
using the restructuring label with alacrity is even more
questionable for other parts of Europe (e.g. Hoggart and
Paniagua, 2001).
A further question that troubles us is the time frame
people have in mind when they refer to restructuring.
Given the present-day short-termism of vision, one suspects not very long, in which case a large amount of what
is called restructuring most certainly fails the test. Without belabouring the point, we might note that Harrington and O'Donoghue (1998) found little change in
(statistically measured) social-economic-demographic dimensions of rurality over the 1980s. If you think we are
being too harsh here, in asking (say) for some pretty


K. Hoggart, A. Paniagua / Journal of Rural Studies 17 (2001) 41}62

signi"cant adjustments over a 10 or 20 year period, then

should we assess restructuring over a longer time span?
After all, as we noted at the start of this paper, many
analysts refer to restructuring in terms of the transition
from an ism to a post-ism, with common references to
1945 as a key date. But if we take this longer time frame,
even if we continue to restrict our vision to political
economy perspectives, this does not calm our nerves. In
part this arises because many commentators seem to use
a much shorter fuse to signify the arrival of the big bang
of restructuring, but let us leave this to one side, and
focus on the longer term. We are not opposed to recognising long-term restructuring, such as has occurred since
1945, but we question whether the term &restructuring' is
helpful for transitions that take so long to occur (indeed,
which are still in the process of occurring, given the lack
of clarity about what the next &structural coherence' will
be; Goodwin et al., 1995). It is debatable whether qualitative change in rural areas over that time period is more
profound than what occurred over similar time periods
in the past (for England take 1870}1925 as one example,
or how about 1810}1865?). But if this is even nearly the
case, why do we need the concept &restructuring' to capture what is occurring? If the term &restructuring' is to be
used as a &fact', should it not be highlighting something
that is very distinctive from the past in its pace and
qualities, otherwise we do not need the term * what we
have is what we had before, (admittedly uneven) uncertainty, dynamism and change. Surely, the restructuring
label is not all a chimera * a self-congratulatory invention to stimulate the impression that today's analysts are
making an original contribution? Are the social constructionists right, and Kuhn (1962) wrong? Perhaps it is not
that &science' moves forward in revolutionary steps, but
more that the canny ones fool the majority into believing
their ideas are &revolutionary'? Ponder these ideas as
hypotheses. We are believers in the restructuring approach, for this should be a means of improving theoretical understanding. This can be achieved quite readily
without assuming that restructuring is &fact'. Restructuring as &approach' is not discomforted by the magnitude of

 That we have not used the economic crisis period of the 1970s here
is not because we are unaware of arguments that this was a critical
turning decade in economic transition. Rather we have taken what we
see as the extremes in the literature, in terms of what others seem to
imply about the time period over which restructuring is occurring. In
truth none really claim a 10 year period, but the implications of
suggestions on the nature of change point at a short time scale for
restructuring. We also do not want to stress the 1970s because this is
seen as a critical period for economic change (which impacted on the
state). As argued early in this paper, restructuring can (and should) be
seen as more than this. In terms of social behaviour, for instance, it
seems to us that an easily defendable position is that the 1960s were
much more in#uential than the 1970s as a period that heralded social

social change in the past and present, whereas restructuring as &fact' is.
To conclude brie#y, let us broaden the discussion
somewhat. In good measure we have a lot of sympathy
with Dear and Flusty (1998) that we should acknowledge
the merits of accepting the challenge of the likes of
Jacques Derrida and C. Wright Mills to &rehearse the
break'. That is, to recognise that only by assuming that
a radical break has occurred can our capacity to recognise it be released. Methodologically we "nd this a good
strategy. Our argument is that having rehearsed the
break from a political economy perspective, we are not
convinced that a break has occurred. A transition has
taken place but as a package not something that is
su$ciently di!erent from past processes to be seen as
a pivotal, &radical break'. If you blast your way through
the jargon, excuse the dire account of the Chicago
School, forgive the super"cial account of US urban history and are not distracted by naive theorising, we think
most readers will reach the same conclusion about urban
change after reading Dear and Flusty (see the critiques in
Urban Geography 1999, Vol. 20, part 5). Of course, what
underscores this paper is the classic discomfort of reconciling &fact' from representation. As Hammersley and
Atkinson (1995, p. 18) state &2 to say that our "ndings,
and even our data, are socially constructed does not automatically imply that they do not or cannot represent [real]
social phenomena'. Empirically we see this in the manner
in which social groups at the local level respond to
broader societal forces, and so provide an &individualised'

 We do not have the space here to draw out the full implications of
this point. What we should state is that we recognise that quantitative
change might lead to qualitative change, as seen when some &key'
transition point is passed that prompts a re-balancing of critical social
forces. This is well recognised in theorising on the satisfaction of human
needs, with quantitative improvements in the satisfaction of particular
needs &freeing' people to allocate higher priority to other, qualitatively
di!erent needs (e.g. on the hierarchy of needs idea, see Maslow, 1970). In
this context, our recognition that change has occurred builds within it
the possibility that the magnitude of change alone has induced qualitative change (see, for example, Giddens, 1998, on the existence of globalisation). Our point is that analysts have too readily assumed that
quantitative change has led to qualitative change. On globalisation, for
instance, a persuasive argument can be put about the manner in which
"nance capital has lessened the power of the nation-state (Giddens,
1998, pp. 30, 46}53). Yet it would be di$cult to deny the fundamental
contribution of international capital in the transformation of many
19th century economies, with Argentina and the former British settler
colonies as obvious examples, alongside the UK itself as potential
&home' investment was lost abroad (Edelstein, 1982). Financial regimes
in the year 2000 are di!erent from 1950 but we need a stronger
theorisation of how and why, including recognition of precise di!erences, and if these emerge periodically as a result of long-term economic
cycles (e.g. Marshall, 1987). Beyond this we need to ask about the
implications for localities. Giddens (1998, p. 30), for example, contradicts the Hirst and Thompson (1996) argument that the advance of
trading blocs has simply taken us back to a 19th century liberalised

K. Hoggart, A. Paniagua / Journal of Rural Studies 17 (2001) 41}62

imagery of change, which heightens or suppresses our

sense of local dynamism (e.g. Ilbery and Kneafsey,
1998; Ray, 1999; Gray, 2000). Methodologically, we see
tension between the local and broader forces in conceptualising the nature of &reality'. As Silk (1982, p. 381)
reminds us: &[c]hanging our subjective view of the world
by no means necessarily means that the way in which the
world objectively operates will thereby be changed'. The
divide between &reality' and &social construction' has too
commonly been portrayed as a dualism, when what we
need to understand is how particular social practices lead
to social constructions (Demeritt, 1996). Although this
paper has not focused on these practices, our concern is
that the mood of the moment favours &big change'.
Rather than &rehearsing the break', for reasons that
would take a quite di!erent paper to explore, researchers
have too commonly assumed the break. Like a picture
that presents two images depending on how it is looked
at, it is possible that the hue and cry is more about
realising there is another image than being confronted
with a di!erent picture. Our critique arises from analysts
assuming that because they now portray processes di!erently the processes themselves have changed. To our
mind this has not been shown convincingly. As Jenkins
and associates (1998, p. 57) have recently argued, there is
still a critical need in rural studies to gain a clear understanding of current socio-economic, political, environmental and cultural conditions in rural areas. This quest
should be undertaken with a view to exploring change
processes, most especially over longer time periods.

Foot note 10 continued

trade economy by pointing out that the export of tradable goods made
up only 7% of the GDP of OECD countries in 1950 (12% in 1911), but
had risen to 12% in 1970 and 17% in 1997. Readers should grasp our
point here by noting the sleight of hand in Giddens's argument. For
one, note that Hirst and Thompson's comment relates to trading blocs,
Giddens's to countries. With most trade amongst the EU's OECD
members now within the EU, the meagre rise of 5% in traded GDP
shares could be accounted for by intra-EU trade. Certainly, the creation
of the EU has spatially uneven implications for localities (e.g. Dunford,
1994). But we are not convinced that a major change in economic
circumstance has occurred, as Giddens argues. For one, if most of the
growth in the GDP accounted for by trade can be credited to
a strengthened EU, then globalisation is hardly an appropriate concept
to capture what has happened. Enlarged trading blocs (nation to
continental region) would appear more accurate (with exactly the same
happening at local level with the integration of rural locales into
expanding urban "elds; e.g. Champion and Congdon, 1992). For another, can we be sure these broader blocs have had so fundamental an
impact on localities? Do we really think the shift in agricultural policy
making from Whitehall to Brussels has resulted in farm policy
being fundamentally di!erent today from what it would otherwise have
been? Change has occurred, but the key message for us is that
critical decisions a!ecting local rural economic fortunes are still
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