Rural governance and power structures

Strategies for negotiating uneven power between local interests and external actors

Authored by: Amanda McMillan Lequieu , Michael M. Bell

The Routledge Companion to Rural Planning

Print publication date:  January  2019
Online publication date:  January  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138104051
eBook ISBN: 9781315102375
Adobe ISBN:


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How do rural people interact with and mediate both horizontal and vertical power structures? From out-of-touch political priorities to competing regional interests, tensions between external structures and local actors can perpetuate political, economic, and legal disconnections between rural communities and their broader socioeconomic and political contexts. We draw examples from three rural communities facing their own power struggles, elucidating three ways in which local residents can pursue different local outcomes than those proposed or pursued by power structures. Some may proceed by opting out of undemocratic, power dynamics by pursuing non-traditional markets. Others may face undesirable rural policies head-on by opting in to legal due process. Still other rural communities may find solutions to the uneven distribution of power by merging formal and informal political authority. We contrast alternative grain production, Appalachian resistance to coal mining, and northern Ugandan issues of land tenure to demonstrate how rural communities may pursue strategies of opting out, opting in, or merging formal and informal policies to pursue locally tailored alternatives to vertical and horizontal power structures. In the end, however, the viability of seeking and achieving more appropriate power structures depends on the political efficacy of actors and the political transparency of bureaucracies.

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