Rural Estrangement: Roadblocks and Roundabouts to Justice

John C. Canfield, Karl Galloway, Loka Ashwood

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

1 Scopus citations


This chapter uses an estrangement frame to explore the problem of rural injustice. We analyze four drivers of rural estrangement: stereotypes in favor of elites, mechanization in favor of resource extraction, corporate markets in favor of finance, and governance in favor of urbanity. While the concept of the rural “other” has value, we prefer the concept of estrangement because it treats the rural as diverse rather than monolithic. Doing so avoids the cultural and racial stereotypes that exacerbate the asymmetries of power between the rural and the urban, discrepancies frequently used to legitimize exploitation of rural peoples and the environment.Extractive and mechanization-intensive processes in resource-rich rural places globally often promote a transfer of wealth to urban absentee owners at the expense of the rural environment and public health. Likewise, corporatization makes rural areas vulnerable by collapsing local markets and dispossessing rural peoples. We also explore how the utilitarian orientation of the democratic state often results in what Ashwood (2018) calls a “for-profit democracy” that favors urbanity and diminishes the power of local governance. Finally, we propose some solutions to help mitigate the problems of rural estrangement.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Handbook of Environmental Sociology
Subtitle of host publicationVolume 1
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781108554510
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Cambridge University Press 2020.


  • Democracy
  • Estrangement
  • Justice
  • Rurality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences
  • General Environmental Science


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