Rurality, Social Relations of Power and Social Cohesion

  • Morag E Redwood

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisProfessional Doctorate (ProfD)


In pursuit of new knowledge that will help community practitioners tackle inequality and develop socially-cohesive and ‘fair’ rural communities in a climate of demographic change, increased geomobility and reduced budgets, this study set out to explore the role of rurality in creating and promulgating inequality. A post-postmodern philosophical framework and Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis methodology drew heavily on Bourdieu’s theories of class, habitus, field and culture to analyse data from eleven participants’ exploration of their lived experiences of belonging, or not belonging, to a rural community. Cross-thematic analysis of five emergent superordinate themes revealed that the remoteness and sparse population of rurality created visibility of the ‘unfamiliar’ and invisibility of social relations of power which together create inequality between those trusted, or not trusted, to safeguard the ‘unwritten code’ of values and norms, the doxa, of the rural community. Within rural arenas of social interaction between locals and incomers, social trust, which is a birth right of locals, must be accrued by incomers for them to become ‘absorbed’ into the central socially-cohesive ‘family of trust’. The prestigious social capital of trust empowers this dominant group to control the agency of others to accrue equivalent capital and power; helping those who will uphold thedoxa and hindering those who are perceived as a threat to it. This study contributes new understanding about social ordering in relation to sociocultural and socio-spatial concepts of rurality; the use of social power to uphold the ‘unwritten code’ of rurality; multidimensional properties of social cohesion and negotiable positionality for those outside the dominant group;and the importance of reflexivity to reveal the nature of the doxa and the social relations of power which create rural inequality. This knowledge adds to academic debate on rurality and inequality and provides evidence that will inform practical interventions to address inequality.
Date of Award2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Glasgow Caledonian University
SupervisorSue Scott (Supervisor)

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