Academic journal article International Journal on Humanistic Ideology

Hedonic Hybridization: Suburbanized Ruralities in Romania and Switzerland

Academic journal article International Journal on Humanistic Ideology

Hedonic Hybridization: Suburbanized Ruralities in Romania and Switzerland

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

There is a controversial debate about the current relevance of suburbanization in rural areas. While Champion (2001) sees suburbanization mainly as a phenomenon of the past, Wild and Jones (1988, p. 288) recommend directing future research to "the many complex social changes accompanying these physical transformations" connected with suburbanization.

Several case studies from the last two decades indicate that the process of suburbanization has led to significant migration and other social transformation in areas long considered as rural. The radius around agglomerations in which people with urban lifestyles and occupations settle is expanding fast. This is the case in the United States (Cromartie, 1998; Salamon, 2003a, 2003b; Howley, 2005) and Asia (Sofer & Applebaum, 2006), but also in a number of European countries like Switzerland (Mann & Gennaio, 201 1), Romania (Totelecan, 2010; Egon, 2006), Bulgaria (Hirt, 2008; Dittrich & Jeleva, 2005), the Netherlands (Overbeek & Terluin 2006; Horlings et al, 2005), Finland (Andersson, 2005), Ireland (Scott, Russell & Redmond, 2005), Estonia (Tammaru et al, 2004), Hungary (Kok & Kovácz, 1999) and Portugal (Lawrence-Zuniga, 1999).

As these scholars emphasize, suburbanization extends beyond territorial transformation; it also concerns social space. This paper is concerned with the question of whether the suburbanization of rural areas has relatively uniform social impacts, or whether these impacts are strongly tied to the cultural, economic and social situation of each case. For this purpose case studies are presented from two European regions where rural suburbanization has occurred, but could hardly be more distinct in every other respect. The phenomena of peri-, sub- and counter-urbanization are explored in Section II. After developments in the Southern Lake Zurich Region in Switzerland and the area of Cluj-Napoca in Romania have been outlined in Section III, the methodology of comparing the social situation in the two regions is presented in Section IV. Section V describes the results of the two case studies. Through stressing similarities rather than differences, the concept of hedonic hybridization emerges and is outlined in Section VI.

2. Peri-/Sub-/Counter-urbanization in the cosmopolitan frame Which similarities, which common ground could one expect to detect when comparing the same social process (like suburbanization) in one of the richest and one of the poorest European economies? Does it make sense to compare the process of suburbanizing villages in the context of one of the oldest democracies with suburbanisation in a transformation country?

For several years already some scholars have emphasized the importance of thinking outside the box, theoretically as well as empirically. For many the box seems to be the nation-state container which has moulded our sociological imaginations, categories of perception, self-understanding (Beck & Willms, 2003), and even central concepts of our social sciences. Captive in our methodological nationalism, "the unquestioned framework which determines the limits of relevance" (Beck & Willms, 2003, p. 13), we have only been able to produce universalistic social theories which, as Beck and Grande (2010, p. 410) recently suggest, are out of date ("because it excludes a priori what can be observed empirically: a fundamental transformation of society and politics within Modernity (from First to Second Modernity)") and provincial ("because it mistakenly absolutizes the trajectory, the historical experience and future expectation of Western, i.e. predominantly European or North American, modernization and thereby also fails to see its particularity").

For the more cosmopolitan researchers the shift from solid to liquid modernity (Bauman, 2000), a modernity with people, money, images and information in permanent movement (Urry, 2004), on the run, has led to the abandonment of static, fixed and given categories in favour of up-to-date social theories, and to the overcoming of methodological nationalism. …

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