Natural resources, valorisation, and co-production in the dynamics of rural-urban relations
Sociology Trinity College Dublin Dublin, Ireland
This paper examines changing rural-urban connections through a focus on natural resources. It asks whether ?natural resources? can be theorised to provide a broad comparative framework to analyse the transformation of rural areas in late and increasing ecologically constrained capitalism.
The focus of the paper is on developing a theorisation of natural resources through a discussion of the work of various different schools (e.g. historical materalism, world-systems theory, social ecology and ecological economics) who offer contrasting ways of thinking about this concept. It will also relate these approaches to recent work in rural sociology, which addresses ?natural resources? as products or materials from nature which have been given value, or ?valorised?, by specific social actors for specific uses or purposes. Much of this work explores the economic, social and sustainable impacts of ?revalorisation? of rural resources on rural society and nature: identification of previously neglected or marginalised local natural resources is seen as central to the processes of ?broadening? and ?deepening? rural development, or to the construction of ?alternative worlds of food?. Over-focus on agriculture and on raw materials for food, to the exclusion of other rural natural resources, limits the possibilities for developing a broader perspective on the dynamics of contemporary change in rural-urban relations, while the preoccupation with ?alternative? forms of production gives rise to a rather one-sided account of valorisation as primarily the initiative of rural populations themselves. However, the underlying suggestion in this work that natural resources are best understood, not as ?things?, but as constellations or assemblages of social relations, could be developed further as a central element for a more general theory.