ABSTRACT

Introduction In 2011, worldwide rural population was estimated at over 3.3 billion people, just over half the world population (World Bank 2013). Though policy makers have long debated the role of rural economies in national development efforts, throughout the latter part of the twentieth century, rural economies and the livelihoods of those who live there, were largely ignored by policy makers. In large part a reaction to continuing high rates of rural poverty and the global food crisis of the early 2000s, the fate of the countryside and those who reside there has again come to the fore of both academic and policy debates. Rural areas are not only sites of food production, but the locus of many raw natural resources (timber, metals, etc.) and most of the world’s remaining crucial environmental and biological resources. Rural livelihoods have long been influenced by shifting demographics and broader economic and political forces linking them to national and global markets in a variety of ways, yet the level of interaction and rate of change over the course of the last several decades has reshaped most rural economies and the nature of rural livelihoods in significant ways. Today, neoliberal state policies, global markets and discourses, growing populations, and new technologies and transportation systems have contributed to expanding economic and social networks, blurring the lines between rural/urban and local/global and posing a number of new opportunities and constraints for rural livelihoods. This book is about the ways in which these processes of change are unfolding, their impact on regional economies, and how rural households and individuals are negotiating change. Like other scholars of rural development, the authors here attempt to understand processes of change at the intersection of broader economic and political forces and local socio-cultural conditions. Like Tsing (2004), these studies examine the interplay between the rural peoples whose livelihoods are in flux and the larger institutional and structural forces which give shape to regional economies and the livelihoods of those who live there, not necessarily in terms of the ‘friction’ between local and extra-local forces, but rather as a set of intersecting conditionalities that people negotiate.