Release:2020, Vol. 6. № 3 (23)
About the authors:Vladimir A. Davydenko, Dr. Sci. (Soc.), Professor, Head of the Research Center, University of Tyumen; firstname.lastname@example.org; ORCID: 0000-0001-8389-4254
This article critically introduces the sociology of rural areas through rethinking and reinterpreting contemporary world contexts of rural sociology and factual representation of the Russian rural life, applying qualitative methods of analyzing in-depth interviews with Tyumen Region’s south residents. The authors employ theoretical and methodological approaches, mainly used in classical and modern academic literature on rural realities. The scientific approach of this article, alternative to the popular perspectives of political economy and sociology of postmodernism, is based on compounding the interactionist theory and social constructionism with economic sociology, and relies on the growing status of qualitative methods used not only in rural sociology, but also in social geography.
The case studies on contemporary rural life problems provide the foundation for discussion and criticism. This article also presents the first results of 2020 field research within the framework of a project aimed at studying institutional factors and forms of Tyumen Region south rural areas development. The authors prove the importance of assessing current problems and functioning prospects of the two most important Russian countryside social institutions — the local (municipal) government and business/entrepreneurship, which are considered through the dominant scenarios of their interests’ interaction with reproduction, preservation, and sustainability of rural areas.
The authors’ conclusions are drawn from theoretical and empirical results of generalization and conceptualization of rural life peculiarities, considered through the prism of sociological theories of the countryside and world contexts of this scientific field. This article focuses on illustrating rural areas adaptability and versatility to many external shocks, as well as on contributing to the discussion of the current challenges, problems and opportunities that are opening for rural sociology in the realities of modern Russian rural life. Recommendations, stemming from the current world agenda of rural sociology, propose a relatively new concept of rural politics, displaying the “placed-based” paradigm. The paradigm is to reduce the inequality and inefficiency in agricultural production by removing barriers and seeking opportunities in given locations (villages and small towns), especially those which lag behind more dynamic territories in key resources. In other words, these are the “territories of growth” (an increase in population density and yield, expansion or small reduction of farmland); “territories of stagnation” (a decrease in population density, farmland and yield); and “territories of contraction” (a decrease in population with a significant reduction in farmland and yield).
However, even for these highly generalized socio-spatial characteristics, there is only approximate information that does not allow classifying the scenarios of rural regions reproduction. Spatial dimension indicates the diversity principle of economic change and development. Adaptation of programs to eliminate disadvantages and enhance strengths of territories is likely to help achieving a high return on investment in rural policy through grants, loans, subsidies, subventions (State Program 2020-2025). Placed-based policies should have the greatest impact on lagging regions, reducing regional inequalities, facilitating regional convergence of rural areas. The concept of “territories of growth — stagnation — contraction” is not yet verified by large studies. Theoretical grounding of placed-based policies, originates from economic concepts, broadening them with spatial, cultural, social and institutional dimensions. There is evidence that the placed-based strategy will advance lagging regions and boost the country’s economy. A social policy based on this concept can be a tool for rural areas development, ensuring the complementarity between efficiency and equity.
The scientific novelty of this research lies in the development of a conceptual-categorical scheme that demonstrates the interaction of various branches of government, agricultural actors of different levels and entrepreneurs as a result of their interests coordination. The interaction is presented in a form of impact that macro-actors have on micro- and meso- subjects at the local level, which is very important for tracking the formal-informal ratio in rural residents’ lives.
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