Rationality, habitus, and agricultural landscapes: Ethnographic case studies in landscape sociology

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To explain how agricultural landscapes become social constructions of the natural environment, this essay utilizes Jurgen Habermas's concept of rationality and Pierre Bourdieu's constructs of field and habitus to examine how social relationships shape the way three farmers perceive, alter, and evaluate their land. Intensive interviewing and aerial photographs are used to document the processes through which farmers internalize the primary rationalities of social relationships as a foundation of decision-making regarding water impoundments on their land. One farmer internalizes an instrumental rationality while interacting within relationships with the economic and political system; his landscape changes are meant to improve his ability to extract profit from the land. A second case focuses on a farmer who draws upon familial relationships to provide a substantive counter to the instrumental rationalities of economic relationships; he built a pond to conserve soil. The final case is of a farmer who resists social relationships governed by an instrumental rationality; he built a pond to improve and preserve the beauty of his farm.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)21-38
Number of pages18
JournalAgriculture and Human Values
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1996

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Agronomy and Crop Science


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