Metropolitan Ruralities: Volume 23

Cover of Metropolitan Ruralities

Table of contents

(24 chapters)

This chapter introduces the theoretical and political-practical underpinnings of this volume. It also gives an outline of the editorial organisation of the book and the various chapters. The chapter examines the literature on rural-urban relations, city-near rural areas and current challenges and problems identified in these areas. We identify huge sustainability and resilience problems in current rural-urban relations and metropolitan ruralities. We also relate to writings about a transition from the current carbon-based economy and society to a post-carbon society with reduced ecological footprints. The contributions in this volume are based on the current situation and provide ideas to develop the debate on rural-urban relations, metropolitan ruralities and post-carbon transition.

Part I: Urban Sprawl


The present study assesses the morphological transition and the consequent changes in the use of land observed recently in southern Europe. We analysed the spatial distribution of basic land-use classes (built-up areas, cropland, forests) together with demographic and socioeconomic indicators with the aim to evaluate the differential impact of compact urban expansion and dispersed urbanization on peri-urban farming. Alternating distinct expansion waves over the last 50 years, Athens’ metropolitan region, Greece, was selected as the case study. Although per-capita built-up area was higher in the ‘dispersed’ urban wave compared with the ‘compact’ wave, cropland was the most vulnerable class to urbanization. A high rate of conversion from forests to cropland (in turn abandoned and, finally, developed) was observed since the early 1990s. This process is associated to land fragmentation and soil degradation driven by illegal housing and real estate speculation. Land-use changes are a target for policies mitigating soil consumption and promoting peri-urban agriculture on Mediterranean fringe land.


The aim is to depict the effects of the rural-urban transformation visible in most western societies during the last few decades by examining the Swedish-speaking part of Finland, a geographically divided region kept together by a common language and culture. Everything from the remotely rural to the very central urban is represented here, as well as all possible types of outcomes of the post-industrial urbanization process: growing metropolitan centres, suburbs and commuting areas, declining smaller regional centres, counter-urbanization, and both viable and declining rural areas.

Population mobility may upset the formation (or preservation) of communities, and while these are vital for any sound and well-functioning society, we see a sense of community as especially crucial for the survival of minority populations. The empirical study consists of an overview of demographic trends during the time period from 1980 onwards to 2012, and in parallel, an overview of mobility patterns between urban and rural areas as well as of commuting.

The late modern trend of counter-urbanization is visible in our material, but still, while this does not extend outside the narrow commuting area, counter-urbanization may not be comprehended as a major trend in the Swedish-speaking regions. The main finding is the effect on communities of urbanization and counter-urbanization depicted by the ability to ‘live in Swedish’ in the different types of areas on the rural-urban scale. The study shows that while an area seemingly thrives, with evidence of population growth and in-migration, a high level of mobility may still hurt the prerequisites for community formation.

Part II: Rurbanisation


The differences of urban and rural as social spaces, their functions in society, as well as their mutual dependence have been a subject of scientific thinking since the antique times. This chapter revisits the topic from a sociological point of view, studying the evolution of the functions of rural in relation to urban, and how this evolution was reflected in the basic streams of rural research. The text ends by discussing rural research in relation to present social, economic and ecological tendencies. It is argued that the post-productionist phase of rural studies is losing its plausibility, because of the return of material functions for the countryside, during such recent trends as the global food crises and the greenhouse effect. This chapter discusses the prognosis made by the three founding fathers of rural sociology, Pitirim Sorokin, Carle C. Zimmerman and Charles J. Galpin (1932) that the society is melting together into a ‘rurban’ society, and takes distance from this prognosis for several reasons, for example because ecological tendencies seem to renew rather than diminish the differences between rural and urban. It is further argued that ecosystems have increasing impacts on societies in the form of adapted ‘greenhouse rationalism’. Such changes place rural research in a crossroads, posing the question whether to pay attention to increasingly important impacts of ecosystems on society, or not.


While land management can be a subject of conflict in places where the composition of landowners is socially and culturally diverse, it also holds the potential of bringing landowners together across social groups. This chapter uses the case of a peri-urban area near Copenhagen, Denmark, to examine the relations landowners have through their use and management of land within and across social groups. To elaborate the analysis and discussion of social groups, social coherence and fragmentation, this chapter introduces the concepts of homophily and self-categorisation. Interviews with 40 landowners from two parishes addressed four types of land-based relations: (1) exchange of help and services; (2) debate of farming/management; (3) shared interests and (4) friendship. While the pattern of relations overall supported the idea that people interact more with their own social group, the analysis also showed areas of interaction across groups as well. Three overall themes summarise important areas of cohesion/fragmentation: (1) Rented land and contracting, (2) Common interests between landowners including hunting, farming and horses, (3) Urgency and geographic proximity.


This chapter brings new knowledge on the effects of transformation in metropolitan and urban ruralities, as well as focus on social sustainability in these localities. The case study Sundom, Vaasa, Finland, highlights areas under pressure of transformation. ‘Metropolitan ruralities’ is used here as an umbrella concept, subdivided into metropolitan ruralities and smaller (non-metropolitan) urban ruralities. Qualitative and quantitative research methods are combined in a triangular study. An octagon figure (Fig. 4), including the main variables of the triangular study, is configured, to visualize different variables as a whole. The statistical material is more limited in urban ruralities – for example fewer property trades, less inhabitants and fewer voters – which make these case studies more vulnerable for the impact of extremes. The core of the chapter is to study how and if current global trends in metropolitan ruralities are visible in localities further down the urban scale. A stricter rural gentrification is expected in metropolitan ruralities than in urban ruralities, as the Sundom case exemplifies transformation with mild gentrification. Both metropolitan and urban ruralities are considered ‘breeding grounds’ for new rurban identities, with variations on an urban-rural scale. Metropolitan ruralities are expected to attract more exurbanite migrants, and urban ruralities attract more ‘exruralite’ migrants. This chapter also outlines some practical and social implications, argues for strengthening social sustainability in metropolitan ruralities and puts some much needed focus on transformation in metropolitan as well as non-metropolitan urban ruralities.

Part III: Governance


In urban planning, peri-urban areas are often addressed with an urban-centric view on development, disregarding the multifunctional and dynamic opportunities that these spaces offer. As a consequence, we argue that land use functions such as agriculture do not reach their full potential, despite the increasing enthusiasm for peri-urban and urban agriculture. This chapter has a twofold structure: first it explores the opportunities and challenges for agriculture in peri-urban areas; and second, it studies success factors for envisioning processes promoting peri-urban agriculture in urban policy and planning.

Through action research, we gather and compare data from two envisioning processes in the Flemish cities of Ghent and Kortrijk. Both processes were initiated by the local authorities, with the purpose of developing a spatial vision for agriculture in peri-urban areas.

Results show that in both contexts, pressure on farmland is a key issue. In addition, we highlight that multifunctionality is rather complex, both in practice and from a governance perspective, but nevertheless promising as a territorial concept in envisioning processes. Regarding the envisioning process itself, the analysis shows that clarity and consensus on the objectives of the process, delineation of the study area, policy support, clear leadership, and inserting sound and reliable data into the process are important success factors.

This chapter provides insight into the visions, plans and strategies needed to embrace the potential of agriculture in peri-urban areas, through the exploration and valuation of participatory envisioning processes. Future research is needed to explore the implementation phases of envisioning processes in urban planning.


This chapter concentrates on metropolitan governance, the use of projects (or ‘projectification’) in public administration and the development of metropolitan forms of citizen participation. The analysis is based on a case study from the Helsinki Metropolitan Area – a multi-actor policy programme called the Urban Programme, which included a specific participatory project named Citizen Channel. According to the analysis, the Urban Programme was a way to create consensus and collaboration between the municipalities of the area, whereas the Citizen Channel project created a ‘toolbox’ for metropolitan citizen participation. However, the relation between programme- and project-based development and municipal administration, especially the implementation of the results of short-term projects in permanent administration proved difficult. From the perspective of metropolitan ruralities, four kinds of conclusions are emphasised: the complexity and conflictuality of the issue of metropolitan governance; the use of relatively similar programmes and projects as policy tools both in urban and rural contexts; the ‘metropolitan dimension of everyday life’ of the inhabitants and its relation to municipal administrative cultures as well as the birth and strengthening of new actors such as local NGOs in projects. The originality of this chapter is to combine the frameworks of metropolitan governance, projectification and the development of citizen participation in an empirical study and to reflect them to the ‘metropolitan ruralities’ research.


Departing from an ideal interpretation of the collaborative governance approach, the authors analyse the integrative and collaborative capacities of project-based regional development actions in spatially diverse city regions in Finland. Scrutinizing the relevance of collaborative ideals and their institutional prerequisites becomes all the more salient given the strong emphasis on collaborative approaches to regional diversities throughout Europe. The results show that the integrative potentials are related to specific types of areas. They also call the facilitating capacities of politico-administrative institutions into question. The results are interpreted in terms of an institutional duality that strongly corresponds to the public-private divide.


Regionalism implying some form of city-region or metropolitan-level planning and governance has long been promoted for multiple reasons albeit with varied success. Experiencing a resurgence in 1990s, regional coordination and cooperation has proven effective in pursuing economic development and bolstering competitiveness. Unfortunately, other voices, such as those promoting regional scale land use planning and management to cultivate more sustainable urban form and settlement patterns became comparatively crowded out. With climate change-related environmental and ecological pressures mounting, the chapter suggests it is time to frame regions as socio-ecological rather than mere socio-economic spaces, thereby placing greater emphasis on ecosystems and ecological land management and a circular, regenerative economy. Using the city-region of Stuttgart (Germany) as exemplar, our contribution initiates an exploration into whether statutory regional planning in combination with various informal tools and a multi-level governance framework allows actors to begin to embed and implement these emerging ecological sustainability concepts.

Part IV: Metabolism


The chapter focuses on rural-urban food links in the context of governance. We seek to understand a rural-urban innovator mechanism is emerging through the food system and the renewed question of proximity and relative autonomy in the alimentary supply of this type of space and local society. We present case studies from Paris and Budapest metropolitan rural areas exploring institutional and private actors of governance, their power networks, food and related cultural components of rural-urban relations, the function of food links and the way in which they are governed. We have found several differences in governance methods between the Paris and Budapest metropolitan ruralities. The areas surrounding Paris are characterised by multi-level governance methods. However, an isolated form of rural governance of the rural-urban local food link can be identified in Budapest’s rural areas. Understanding the complex and dynamic interaction of food links and related activities within metropolitan areas offers the possibility of a far greater understanding of the complex and multiple links between sustainability, renewal of social interaction and cohesion.


Food, notably its logistics, security, quality, sustainability and social inclusiveness, is increasingly considered as a crucial element in urban settings, deserving specific institutional and strategic instruments. This is testified by the proliferation of urban food strategies, that is municipal strategic documents that various European cities have adopted during the last decade.

This chapter examines the emergence and diffusion of the concept in Europe, contextualizing it in connection with broader thesis on ‘alternative’ food systems, ‘new localism’ and ‘strategic planning’, in order to unpack how the notion has been constructed. The first part of the chapter reviews the existing literature on urban food strategies, by presenting the debate over the definition of the concept and discussing the normative stance of scholars in regard to ‘alternative’ practices.

After providing a working definition of urban food strategies, the second part presents an overview of their diffusion in Europe and briefly maps the historical diffusion of the model since the first appearance in Toronto in 2000.

The fast adoption of urban food strategies in different urban contexts suggests the necessity of further investigations on the motivations behind the cities’ drive towards food governance. In this sense, the chapter argues in favour of a more cautious assessment of food strategies on behalf of scholars, beyond the positive enthusiasm that has been so far connected to them. In particular, the chapter calls for a critique on the political implications of food strategies, which urgently need to be assessed within strategies of city branding, and to be tested on their actual consequences on urban regeneration and development processes.


This chapter summarizes the theoretical perspectives and empirical studies in the volume and draws up some final conclusions. The methodology is meta-analysis of the chapters in the volume. The main conclusions are that ordinary citizens, professionals, and administrators alike generally are willing to reform urban and rural-urban policy into a more sustainable direction but that the affected political and governance systems have difficulties in responding to this. The editors’ advice is to further develop collaborative governance involving a broad range of stakeholders and perhaps also to start using the wide range of economic incentives available to decision-makers today to further a more sustainable development in rural-urban catchments. We hope that this concluding analysis will feed the debate on these critical issues.

Cover of Metropolitan Ruralities
Publication date
Book series
Research in Rural Sociology and Development
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
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