A-31/11 The Uplands after neoliberalism? The role of the small farm in rural sustainability

The modernist project foresaw no role for small farms, but this can no longer be regarded as axiomatic as neoliberalism enters what Peck et al. call its “zombie phase”. This paper asks what contribution small farms in the uplands can make to societies’ goals, what role they might play in the sustainability of rural communities in such regions, and how this contribution might be supported by state policies. In Scotland and in Norway these questions have recently been the subject of policy debates which appear to offer exceptions or alternatives to neoliberal universalism, and these are considered specifically in this paper. In each case support for small farms is seen as necessary to maintain ‘lights in the windows’ of remoter rural areas. Moreover, each highlights the vital role of the state in offering not only financial support but also in regulating land transfers and occupancy. It is argued that the dismantling of such regulatory powers depletes the state’s ability to manage the tensions between continuity and change which are at the heart of sustainable rural development. The paper concludes that small farms can persist and can contribute to rural sustainability in ways that have been infrequently recognised under neoliberalism. Journal of Rural Studies, 27 (3):275-287

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