Rurality and Crises of Democracy: What Can Rural Sociology Offer the Present Moment?*

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This article discusses the growing political divide in the United States and how ideological polarization has increasingly assumed spatial dimensions, as rural areas have become strongly associated with Republican support, and urban areas have become associated with strong Democratic support. In the context of the recent Trump administration, marked not only by authoritarian tendencies, ethno-nationalism, and hostility towards democratic institutions, but its denouement represented by the U.S. Capitol insurrection on January 6th, 2021 and the weeks that followed, what are the implications for growing spatialized civic and political divides, and indeed for democracy itself? I discuss several main approaches taken by social scientists to explain the relationship between spatial and political divides in the United States, including those that focus on shifting political geographies, cultural factors, economic anxiety, and racial resentment. Then, pointing to several recent exemplars, I identify theoretical, methodological, and perspectival strengths that the discipline of rural sociology can and should engage in developing explanatory frameworks for better understanding these social and spatial shifts – shifts that are simultaneously crises of democracy and crises of epistemology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)393-418
Number of pages26
JournalRural Sociology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


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