|Subfields and other major theories|
Rural sociology is a field of sociology traditionally associated with the study of social structure and conflict in rural areas although topical areas such as food and agriculture or natural resource access transcend traditional rural spatial boundaries (Sociology Guide 2011). It is an active field in much of the world, originating in the United States in the 1910s with close ties to the national Department of Agriculture and land-grant university colleges of agriculture.
The sociology of food and agriculture is one focus of rural sociology, and much of the field is dedicated to the economics of farm production. Other areas of study include rural migration and other demographic patterns, environmental sociology, amenity-led development, public lands policies, so-called "boomtown" development, social disruption, the sociology of natural resources (including forests, mining, fishing and other areas), rural cultures, and identities, rural health care, and educational policies. Many rural sociologists work in the areas of development studies, community studies, community development, and environmental studies. Much of the research involves developing countries or the Third World.
Rural sociology was the first and for a time the largest branch of American sociology.
Rural sociology in Europe developed not in the old established universities but in the new countries that emerged after 1919 and were strongly influenced by the political philosophy of Agrarianism, which promoted the farmer as the strength of society. Czechoslovakia opened three research centers, and others opened in Romania and Yugoslavia.
The mission statements of university departments of rural sociology have expanded to include more topics, such as sustainable development. For example, at the University of Missouri the mission is:
"The Department of Rural Sociology at the University of Missouri employs the theoretical and methodological tools of rural sociology to address challenges of the 21st century – preserving our natural resources, providing safe and nutritious food for an expanding population, adapting to climate changes, and maintaining sustainable rural livelihoods."
The University of Wisconsin set up one of the first departments of rural sociology. It has now dropped the term "rural" and changed its name to the "Department of Community and Environmental Sociology." Similarly, the Rural Sociology Program at the University of Kentucky has evolved into the. "Department of Community and Leadership Development," while transferring the graduate program in rural sociology to the Sociology Department. Cornell University's department of rural sociology has also changed its name to the department of Development Sociology.
Scholarly associations in rural sociology include:
Several academic journals are published in the field of (or closely related to) rural sociology, including: