Social relationships in locality and livelihood: The embeddedness of rural economic restructuring

Leann M. Tigges, Ann Ziebarth, Jennifer Farnham

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33 Scopus citations


In this paper, we apply an embeddedness perspective to data collected from group interviews in four rural Wisconsin communities. The interviews focused on interpretations of local economic conditions and changes and on the consequences of these changes for family well-being and activities. We analyze our participants' relationships to locality, their interpretations of local economic changes, and their formal and informal work arrangements. Just as restructuring is not occurring on the 'head of a pin', neither are the social relations that influence people's interpretations of, and responses to, restructuring. The restructuring of places leads to and is defined by the restructuring of social relationships in places. Family and marital relations are central to the kinds of actions and understandings we studied. In addition, we noted the importance of neighboring and class relationships. Some of these relationships were primarily based on a competition of interests, others were based on mutual accommodation and cooperation. All these relationships are embedded in place, occurring in and helping to define locality. We conclude with a discussion of localities as continuously constructed, not only by macro-economic forces, but by the history of social relations that provide tolerance and resistance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)203-219
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Rural Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1998

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
*This material is based upon work supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Research Initiative Competitive Grants Program, under agreement No. 9403110. Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Pseudonyms have been used for discussion group participants. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Rural Sociological Society Meeting, August 1995 in Washington, D.C.


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