Small Town and Rural Economic Development: A Case Studies Approach

By Peter V. Schaeffer; Scott Loveridge | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6
Community Well-Being and Local Activeness

Lumane P. Claude, Jeffrey C. Bridger, and A. E Luloff


INTRODUCTION

Over the last two decades, many rural communities have experienced major structural shifts away from agriculture, manufacturing, and goods-producing industries toward technological and service industries ( Johansen and Fuguitt 1984; Congress of the United States 1991). The losses in traditional industries are seldom offset by gains in new jobs or income ( Nord et al. 1994; Pulver 1995). This shift has been accompanied by out-migration and concomitant alterations in rural social organizations that weaken the ability of many rural communities to overcome economic distress ( Summers and Branch 1984; Luloff and Swanson 1995). Taken together, these trends have left many communities vulnerable to extra-local influences as they try to find a niche in the global market and compete in an information-based economy ( Lovejoy and Krannich 1982; Blakely and Bradshaw 1985; Dilhnan 1985; Krannich and Luloff 1991; Pulver 1995).

Despite this bleak picture, some rural communities have successfully retained their population and compensated for job losses in traditional industries ( Nord et al. 1994). Many communities adopt new and/or altered strategies to deal with emerging concerns and adapt to changes by coordinating their actions toward shared goals ( Kaufinan and Wilkinson 1967; Wilkinson 1991). New patterns of cooperation often surface as residents mobilize resources to solve problems threatening common interests and establish strategies to prevent similar situations in the future ( Luloff and Wilkinson 1979; Wilkinson 1991).

This chapter investigates the relationship between residents' perceptions of community well-being, levels of community activeness, and success in four rural Pennsylvania communities. An interactional field theory of community

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