Centre for Rural Research Annual Review 2004 - College of Social ...

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Centre for Rural Research Annual Review 2004 - College of Social ...

SoC2020’s process of storyboarding the rural future begins by inviting participants tosketch out the current ‘condition’ of rural England. These sketches were then fleshedout through facts, figures and extended reportage within the final report itself, andfunction as the antagonistic context in which discussion of the rural futures is mademeaningful and important (i.e. on the ‘threshold’ of change). Its picture of the ‘hereand now’ is not a device around which a normative vision of the future can form. Forinstance, it is not like the recent findings of the Policy Commission on Future ofFarming and Food, in which the present is held up as distinctly more ‘inferior’ to theCommission’s version of the future (see DEFRA 2002). More significantly, itconstructs the ‘present’ as if it is one moment in the evolution of well establishedtrends: the product of inexorable social and economic forces that will inevitably cometo shape the terms of future time as well. It produced this logic by inviting participantsto identify what it termed ‘drivers of change’. So, for instance, the report comes towrite of longstanding developments in the global economy which it claims will have“profound consequences for the next two decades” (Moynagh and Worsley, 2003p.14), from the consolidation of a ‘must fit me’ culture and the rise of an ‘experiencebased’ economy to the spatial concentration of labour markets and the strengtheningof knowledge-based industries. These processes of change, it goes on to claim, will befiltered through deep-seated traditions and social processes surrounding the idea andexperience of rural space, such as enduring appeals to rural landscape in formations ofnational identity, as well as the abiding role of the middle classes in the constitution ofrural space.Figure 1: Envisioning and enacting rural futuresStage 1.Describepresent‘condition’ ofcountrysideSingular & linearaccomplishment of pasttimesPredicative,ideological andimaginative limits offuture possibilities‘Countryside means business’‘All on board’‘Triple whammy’‘Go for Green!’Stage 2.Identify‘Driving’ForcesStage 3.‘Sideshadow’FuturesFor my purpose, the important point to note about this framing of the rural future bySoC2020 is its implied sense of temporal determinacy. Its concern with ‘drivers ofchange’ is to elevate, from the outset, the importance of historical (i.e. accomplished)84

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