The book "Lokalsamfunn" (“Local Communities”) was recently published. The editors Mariann Villa and Marit S. Haugen and several of the contributors are affiliated with the Centre for Rural Research. In this book, a large number of social scientists offer research-based knowledge of local communities, presented through various approaches. What is a local community, and what role do community, identity, culture and local development play in local communities today?

What is the impact of organizations and institutions when it comes to creating and reproducing local communities, and how are local communities affected by phenomena such as globalization and mobility?
These are big questions, and they are among the key issues in the book. The book does not claim to have all the answers, but aims to provide updated knowledge and insight in the field.
– We have deliberately avoided providing a specific definition in what for decades has been a professional and theoretical discussion: How do we define a local community? We leave it up to the individual contributions to outline what a local community is and how it may be understood, says Mariann Villa, who is the editor of the book along with Marit S. Haugen.
Always relevant
Theories of local communities are rooted in early sociological works from the 1800s. The perception was that the ideal local community was characterized by unity, social care, and security, and that these qualities would be wiped out in the transition to a modern society, which represented insecurity and mobility.
Modernization processes, now in the form of globalization and centralization, represent challenges for today’s local communities as well. In addition, recent research on local communities has focused on various forms of association, various affiliations, and the importance of local communities for different people at different times. This has led to an understanding of local communities as flexible, fluid and complex. It has also shown that mobility, in the form of depopulation and immigration, as well as new forms of communications technology, presents new challenges, opportunities, and content to local communities. Thus, according to the editors, research on local communities is always a relevant topic.
– Major global trends are affecting everything, everywhere, but the local community still represent an important part of people’s everyday lives, says Haugen.
– The local community is our first and immediate meeting with society, it is where we first set foot in the world and it is what surrounds us every day, adds Villa.
Diversity and variety
The book, published by Cappelen Damm Akademisk, has 21 chapters written by 26 researchers from various disciplines, including sociology, geography, anthropology and social planning.
Researchers from Centre for Rural Research have contributed to six chapters. Other contributions come from researchers affiliated with universities, colleges and research institutes in many different parts of Norway.
The book springs from the Local Communities Study, a strategic institute program at Centre for Rural Research from 2012 to 2015. The purpose of the program was to strengthen and develop the rural sociology and social science expertise on rural and community development, and to contribute to the knowledge of the socio-cultural development of villages and local communities.
Much like the local communities it describes, the book represents diversity and variety in its thematic, methodological and theoretical approaches. The various contributions illuminate some of the complex developmental and analytical levels in the study of local communities. The book aims to reach both students and researchers in the social sciences, policy makers and community planners, and anyone who takes an interest in subject matters regarding rural or urban local communities.
Order your copy (only in Norwegian) or browse the first chapter of the book here .
Reference: Mariann Villa and Marit S. Haugen (2016) (eds.). Lokalsamfunn . Oslo: Cappelen Damm Akademisk.

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