75th Anniversary: 33) “Together” and a rural sociology research agenda

“And we will, together, be.”

No, this is not a mantra from a self-help book for success or therapeutic healing but rather the final sentence in Ece Temelkuran’s new book Together, 10 choices for a better now. The book is a collection of ideas woven into stories that help to think new ways of relating to each other. The book invites the reader to think beyond the individualizing millstones of neoliberalism, which divides by reducing us to a-social transactional entities, and beyond those of the populist right, whose parochial cultural pride separates us into belligerent communities. Spinning and weaving moments and experiences of many kinds, novelist and commentator Ece Temelkuran presents 10 threads through which we can start doing and thinking another future in the here and now. Food for thought for rural sociologists.  

The opening of the book recalls the phrase attributed to Frederic James, that it is easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine a political alternative for the economic and political system causing the world to end. This is what Temelkuran refers to as the magical ability of a status quo to make people believe that if the political and economic system we live in collapses, everything else will collapse with it. Around us we find mesmerizing experts who warn us like fearful ancient sailors that if we dare to sail into uncharted waters, we will fall off the edge of the world, notes Temelkuran. The “build back better” calls for post-pandemic times seem to confirm this atrophied imagination, that there is simply no alternative to the current economic and political system.  

Fast backward. When, in 2001, George W. Bush called Americans to get over the 9/11 trauma, he found no better words than ‘go back shopping’, as Zygmunt Bauman reminded us. Consumption is the medicine. Today, no one has to tell us to go shopping, as the smart and less smart lock-downs are experienced first and foremost as a restriction of our ability to consume, now defined as the primary, sometimes only pillar of ‘freedom’. As the fullness of life has morphed into taking our fill of enjoyment and entertainment we queue to be allowed into Zara, Primark, or Footlocker, performing the entry rituals at disinfection stations. We do not even have to feel the guilt of collaboration with the dictates of consumerism since it has now become our very duty to consume with a larger mission: to save the economy through our marketplace activities and, in so doing, bail out the sinking ship of capitalism.

Ece Temelkuran’s sharp contextual sketch forms the starting point for series of key questions. Can we reshape our existence to survive a world that has transformed itself into a corporation? Can we imagine an economic policy beyond private property, one that renders the accumulation of capital both illegal and immoral? Can we learn to see the world again from an ethical perspective instead of a consumerist one? Yes, we can, she argues; we can reinvent ourselves and the world through even the smallest things, and not just to tranquilize our discomfort. All the small things we are actually already doing in which we address precarity and vulnerability can determine our future. Yet, the reader of this book should expect no recipes or prescriptions. Together offers leads, ideas from which we can start to further explore and give words to new possibilities and other futures.

One such lead is dignity, something our economic and political system not only does not value but also cannot come to terms with since, Temelkuran explains, it has no idea of the good. Another lead is enough, a term that she borrows from the novelist Kurt Vonnegut and which invalidates the contemporary ‘consumer’ identity through which we have learned to conceive ourselves. Yet another lead is faith, which Temelkuran contrasts with hope, or better, I would say, with messianic hope, which i) pacifies (as it puts the expectation of salvation onto others outside ourselves and submits to some higher power), ii) subjugates (since the hope that justice will be done keeps people obedient), and iii) procrastinates (since while hope remains unfulfilled, we are condemned to waiting). What Ece Temelkuran refers to as ‘faith’ could also be characterized as a ‘critical hope’, which is based on doing, questioning, and learning, a hope grounded in (daily) social practices and struggles.

In Together, economic and political morality emerge through the “10 choices” in addressing what Ece Temelkuran refers to as a “housing problem”: the national and international institutions through which we inhabit the world. These are worn out and offer no solutions. The question she raises is that of how to reinvent new ways to inhabit the world, together, to create new institutions based on a moral, political, and economic triangulation. The end of the book, however, also carries a warning: those who work with words have a responsibility to be careful in what they write and say. Mismanaged words have a habit of destroying lives – as the crushing weight of ‘modernization’ narratives in our own field of rural sociology has shown.

For a rural sociology celebrating its 75th anniversary, Together is a timely work. It raises questions about the world, this world, and the relentless economic and political foundations on which its rests. Importantly, this book also opens up an imaginative of possible futures in the now that develop the principles from which they are made in our daily living and social struggles. Thus, Ece Temelkuran has taken her writer’s responsibility seriously, presenting us with carefully selected words that have something important to say, also for the research agendas of our own discipline. 

Ece Temelkuran, 2021. Together, 10 choices for a better now, 4th Estate: London, ISBN 978-0-00-839380-9, 199 pages.

Does the Arab region have an agrarian question?

In “Does the Arab region have an agrarian question?” Max Ajl argues that the Arab region is not part of broader discussions on the agrarian question and even though the political economy is having a small renaissance in Arab region studies, the leading agrarian publications – Journal of Peasant StudiesAgrarian SouthJournal of Agrarian ChangeAgriculture and Human Values, and Sociologia Ruralis publish lightly on the region.

“Discussion on food sovereignty and agro-ecology, and Anglophone rural sociology have blind spots when it comes to the Middle East/North African (Arab) region. This article explores them; outlines some initial concepts, discusses avenues for research, and notes some socio-political features of the region which make it distinct from others. It focuses on the necessity to include war and the national question to understand the regional agrarian question and advances and retreats in regional knowledge production. It proceeds by (1) establishing the relative absence of the region from the leading peasant studies journals; (2) synthesizing the region’s political economy and waves of knowledge production; (3) highlighting local traditions which speak to the questions of food sovereignty and agro-ecology; and (4) listing a series of theoretical, historical, and analytical avenues which remain to be addressed.”

Read the full article here: Does the Arab region have an agrarian question?: The Journal of Peasant Studies: Vol 0, No 0 (tandfonline.com)

A People’s Green New Deal

The idea of a Green New Deal, a set of proposal to address climate change and its effects, was launched into popular consciousness by US Congressperson Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in 2018. Evocative of the far-reaching ambitions of its namesake, it has become a watchword in the current era of global climate crisis. But what – and for whom – is the Green New Deal?

In this concise and urgent book, A People’s Green New Deal, RSO postdoc Max Ajl provides an overview of the various mainstream Green New Deals. Critically engaging with their proponents, ideological underpinnings and limitations, he goes on to sketch out a radical alternative: a ‘People’s Green New Deal’ committed to the decommodification of social reproduction, anti-capitalism, anti-imperialism and agro-ecology.

Ajl diagnoses the roots of the current socio-ecological crisis as emerging from a world-system dominated by the logics of capitalism and imperialism. Resolving this crisis, he argues, requires nothing less than an infrastructural and agricultural transformation in the Global North, and the industrial convergence between North and South. As the climate crisis deepens and the literature on the subject grows, A People’s Green New Deal contributes a distinctive perspective to the debate.

Order now: A People’s Green New Deal (plutobooks.com)

75th anniversary: 31) A Short History of Wageningen Sociology Book Series

Once upon a time, the Impact Factor was not sovereign in the field of rural sociology, and the inhabitants of the discipline had control over their own means of production. It was a time when the Wageningen sociologists published their “Bulletin”, followed by “Occasional Papers of the Departments of Sociology[i]” and then the “Wageningen Studies in Sociology[ii]”. These book series were an important means for the communication and dissemination of research findings.

The first series, the Bulletin book series, published 40 titles between 1955 and 1980, 36 of which appeared within the first 15 years. The “Occasional Papers” series published 23 titles between 1982 and 1988, followed by 14 titles in the “Wageningen Studies in Sociology” series between 1989 and 1994. This makes a total of 77 book publications over a period of 40 years, covering a range of topics in the field of agrarian and rural studies, planning, recreation studies, and demography. 

The purpose of these book series was to inform professionals and scholars about the research of the Wageningen sociologists. Over time, the audience changed from a Dutch to an English-speaking public. During the period of the first two series, most publications were in Dutch, with rather few in English. In the Bulletin series, just seven of the 40 books were published in English, with most of the English titles published towards the end of the series in the 1970s, while in the Occasional Papers series, five of 23 the books were in English; in the Wageningen Studies series, however, 10 of the 14 were English language publications.

Most of the books were single-authored publications: 30 out of 40 in the Bulletin series and 24 from 37 in the combined Occasional Papers and Wageningen Studies series. Almost all the books were written or edited by Wageningen sociologists. Most were staff publications, though the series included a few Ph.D. theses. The final publication of the three series comprised the proceedings of the 16th European Congress of Rural Sociology, which was held in Wageningen in the early days of August 1993 under the title “Agricultural Change, Rural Society, and the State.”

Although the book series ended in 1994, the Wageningen sociologists did not rest. Between 2007 and 2020, Wageningen rural sociologists published a total of 2,641 articles, book chapters, reports, and dissertations, predominantly with international scientific publishers. Among the most used English language journals were Sociologia Ruralis (which Wageningen sociologists co-founded), the Journal of Rural Studies and the Journal of Peasant Studies. Wageningen sociologists continued to publish in Dutch too, among others in the critical agrarian studies journal Spil (1978–2012) and Landbouwkundig Tijdschrift, the journal of the Royal Society for Agricultural Sciences. Ideas to (re-)establish again our own vehicle for scientific publications are occasionally discussed but not (yet) followed up.   

Books published in the Bulletin series

1.Sociologische aspecten van de landbouwvoorlichting

E.W. Hofstee, 1953

2.Boer en standsorganisatie, een regionaal-quantitatieve analyse

E. Abma 1955

3.De beoefening van de bloemsiterij en groenteteelt te Beesd

A.J. Wichers, 1956

4. Boer en coöperatie in Nederland, deel 1, de coöperatieve gezindheid 

E. Abma 1956

5. Enkele kenmerken en eigenschappen van de vooruitstrevende boeren I

A.W. van den Ban, 1956

6. Boeren en landbouwonderwijs, de landbouwkundige ontwikkelingen van de Nederlandse boeren

A.W. van den Ban, 1957

7. Onderzoek naar de activiteiten van de leden van de Gelderse Maatschappij van Landbouw

J.D. Dorgelo 1975

8. Verdwijnende dorpen op het Groninger Hogeland

N.A. Tonckens en E. Abma, 1957

9. Regionale verschillende in de toepassing van enkele landbouwmethoden

A.W. van den Ban, 1958

10. Enkele kenmerken en eigenschappen van de vooruitstrevende boeren II

A.W. van den Ban, 1958

11. De evaluatie van een voorlichtingsmethode in de Betuwe

A.J. Wichers 1958

12. . Boer en coöperatie in Nederland, deel 2, coöperatieve en niet coöperatieve boeren

E. Abma 1958

13. Voorkeuren voor voorlichting

A.J. Wichers 1959

14. Omvang van de agrarische beroepsbevolking in de 20ste eeuw

J.H.W. Lijfering

15. Het gardeniersprobleem in de kleibouwstreek van Friesland

S. van Veen en A.J. Wichers, 1959

16. Woning, dorp en dorpsgemeenschap in de Noordoostpolder

E. Abma en J.E. Montgomery, 1959

17. De leesbaarheid van landbouwbladen

W.H. Douma 1960

18. Fundamenteel sociologisch speurwerk in het kader van het landbouwwetenschappelijk onderzoek

E.W. Hofstee, 1960

19. De vormgeving van voorlichtingsdrukwerk

J.W. Schellekens en A.J. Wichers, 1960

20. Het gezinsleven op een verstedelijkend platteland

W.H. Douma, 1961

21. De echtscheiding in het agrarisch milieu

G.A. Kooy en J.H.H. Hasenack, 1961

22. De houding tegenover ruilverkaveling in het land van Heusden en Altena en de Tielerwaard-West 

J.P. Groot, F.C. Prillevitz, Th. J. Rinsma, G.A. Sparenburg, 1962

23. De vrije tuinbouwvestiging op nieuwe gronden in het Westland en De Kring

U. Geling en J.P. Groot

24. Boeren en toekomstbeeld, enkele beschouwingen naar aanleiding van een terreinverkenning in de Noordoostpolder

A.K. Constandse, 1964

25. De houding van de boeren in Bergeyk tegenover de landbouwvoorlichting

J.G.M. Helder, 1964

26. Economic knowledge and comprehension in a Netherlands farming community

H.H. Felstehausen, 1965

27. Wageningse eerstejaars studenten deel 1, enkele achtergronden van de studiekeuze

E. Abma, 1967

28. Enforced marriage in the Netherlands, a statistical analysis in order to test some hypotheses

G.A. Kooy and M. Keuls, 1968

29. Wageningse eerstejaars studenten deel 2, slagen of zakken voor het propedeutisch examen

E. Abma, 1968

30. De sociale gevolgen van de mechanisatie van de landbouw

A.J. Jansen, 1968

31. De sociale betekenis van het kamperen

A.P.C. Kersten, 1968

32. De leefbaarheid van de dorpen in de gemeente Borger

J.P. Groot, 1969

33. Het gezinsbeeld bijde Nederlandse politieke partijen

S.I, Zwart, 1969

34. Evaluatie van de tuinbouwvoorlichting in het Westland en De Kring

J. Visser, 1969

35. Sociaal-economische differentiatie in de landbouw

L.J.M. Weerdenburg, 1970

36. The guiding image and rural physical planning

J.P. Groot and D.B.W.M. van Dusseldorp, 1970

37. Extension and the forgotten farmer

J. Ascroft, N. Röling, J. Kariuki, F. Chege, 1973

38. Constructing tomorrow’s agriculture

A.J. Jansen, 1975

39. Original and derived creativity in scientific thinking

B. van Norren, 1976

40. De role of farmers’ organizations in two paddy farming areas in West-Malaysia

J.R.V Daana, 1980

Books published in the series Occasional Papers of the Departments of Sociology (1982-1988 ) and Wageningen Studies in Sociology (1989-1994). Editors: Anton Jansen, Berry Lekanne dit Deprez en Rien Munters.

1.Differentiële sociologie in kort bestek. Schets van de differentiële sociologie en haar functie in het concrete sociaal-wetenschappelijk onderzoek   

E. W. Hofstee. 1982, 54 biz., ing., (nr. I)

2.Migratie uit de steden. Een literatuurstudie   

Lily Harm. 1982, 82 biz., ing. (nr. 2)

3.Man and manihot. Vol. I: Case studies on cassava cultivators   

L. Box and F. Doorman. 1982, 185 biz., ing., (nr. 3)

4.Over vriendschap. Verslag van een hypothesenvormend sociologisch onderzoek naar een bijzondere betrekking tussen mensen   

G. A. Kooy. 1982, 130 biz., ing., (nr. 4)

5.Man and manihot. Vol. II: An annotated bibliography on cassava cultivation and processing among

Amerindians   

B. de la Rive Box-Lasocki. 1982, 170 biz., ing., (nr. 5)

6.Van huwelijk tot echtscheiding; een regenboog van ervaringen   

Iteke Weeda. 1983, 502 biz., ing. (nr. 6)

7.Rekreatiegedrag en ekonomische crisis   

Henk de Jong. 1983, 154 biz., ing. (nr. 7)

8.Planning voor vrijheid. Een historisch-sociologische studie van de overheidsinterventie in rekreatie en vrije tijd   

Theo Beckers. 1983, 456 biz., ing., (nr. 8)

9.Volksonderwijs in de Welingerigte Maatschappij. Een inhoudsanalyse van prijsverhandelingen van de Maatschappij tot Nut van ‘t Algemeen   

Dick van der Wouw en Jo Louvenberg. 1982, I 35 biz., ing., (nr. 9)

10.Over de welzijnstaal. Een onderzoek naar de psy-normering   

Ernst Meijer. 1983, 95 biz., ing., (nr. 10)

11.Paddy farmers, irrigation and agricultural services in Malaysia. A case study in the Kemubu Scheme

G. Kalshoven, J. R. V. Daane, L. J. Fredericks, F. van der Steen van Ommeren and A. van Tilburg. 1984,

205 pp., paperback, (nr. I I), ISBN 90-6754-055-2

12.De woongroep verlaten. Een verkennend sociologisch onderzoek naar uittreding uit woongroepen na conflicten   

Adri Bolt. 1984, 111 pp., paperback, (nr. 12), ISBN 90-6754-056-0

13.Huwelijkswelslagen in Nederland. Een vergelijking tussen 1967 en 1983   

G. A. Kooy. 1984, 164 pp., paperback, (nr. 13), ISBN 90-6754-057-9

14.Anthony Giddens. Een kennismaking met de structuratietheorie

Q. J. Munters, Ernst Meijer, Hans Mommaas, Hugo van der Poel, René Rosendal en Gert Spaargaren.

1985, 137 pp., paperback, (nr. 14), ISBN 90-6754-061-7

15.Handelen, Handelingscontext en Planning. Een theoretisch-sociologische verkenning

Fer Kleefmann. 1985, 371 pp., paperback, (nr. 15), ISBN 90-6754-062-5

16.Irrigation and social organization in West Malaysia

H. J. Hoogstraten. 1985, 148 pp., paperback, (nr. 16), ISBN 90-6754-067-6

17.The commoditization debate: labour process, strategy and social network

Norman Long, Jan Douwe van der Ploeg, Chris Curtin and Louk Box. 1986, 123 pp., paperback,

(nr. 17), ISBN 90-6754-087-0

18.Rood en Zwart: Bedrijfsstrategieën en kennismodellen in de Nederlandse melkveehouderij

Benjo Maso. 1986, 135 pp., paperback, (nr. 18), ISBN 90-6754-094-3

19.Benaderingen van organisaties vergeleken. Een kritische bespreking van theorievorming over de relatie tussen strategie en structuur van organisaties

Henk ten Holt. 1987, I 15 pp., paperback, (nr. 19), ISBN 90-6754-098-6

20.Landbouw, landbouwwetenschap en samenleving. Filosofische opstellen

H. Koningsveld, J. Mertens, S. Lijmbach en J. Schakel. 1987, 200 pp., paperback, (nr. 20), ISBN 90-6754-1 15-X

21.De verwetenschappelijking van de landbouwbeoefening

Jan Douwe van der Ploeg. 1987, 344 pp., paperback, (nr. 21), ISBN 90-6754-120-6

22.Automatisering in land- en tuinbouw. Een agrarisch-sociologische analyse

Jaap Frouws en Jan Douwe van der Ploeg. 1988, xvii +110 pp., paperback, (nr. 22), ISBN 90-6754-123-0

23.Illegale recreatie. Nederlandse radiopiraten en hun publiek

J. H. W. Lijfering. 1988, 128 pp., paperback, (nr. 23), ISBN 90-6754-128-1

24.De boer als buitenstaander? Sociologische studies over marginalisering en integratie

A. T. J. Nooij, R. E. van Broekhuizen, H. J. de Haan, Q. J. Munters en K. Verrips. 1989, vi + 118 pp., paperback, (nr. 24), ISBN 90-6754-134-6

25.Organization and participation in Southeast Asian irrigation systems

Geert Kaishoven, Nenita E. Tapay and Aart Schrevel. 1989, vii + 118 pp., paperback, (nr. 25), ISBN 90-6754-136-2

26.Marginalization misunderstood. Different patterns of farm development in the West of Ireland

Chris Leeuwis, 1989. xiv + 131 pp., paperback, (nr. 26), ISBN 90-6754-146-X

27.Encounters at the interface. A perspective on social discontinuities in rural development

Norman Long, editor. 1989. viii + 276 pp., paperback, (nr. 27), ISBN 90-6754-148-6

28.From common ignorance to shared knowledge. Knowledge networks in the Atlantic Zone of Costa Rica

Louk Box, editor. 1990. viii + 80 pp., paperback, (nr. 28), ISBN 90-6754-178-8

29.Geschriften over landbouw, structuur en technologie.

Bruno Benvenuti; ingeleid, bewerkt en vertaald door Jan Douwe van der Ploeg. 1991, v + 140 pp., paperback, (nr. 29), ISBN 90-6754-188-5

30.Sociologists in agricultural research. Findings of two research projects in the Dominican Republic and the Philippines

Louk Box and Dirk van Dusseldorp. 1992, viii + 66 pp., paperback (nr. 30), ISBN 90-6754-215-6

31.Adept at adapting. Contributions of sociology to agricultural research for small farmers in developing countries: the case of rice in the Dominican Republic

Frans Doorman. 1991, xxiii + 198 pp., paperback, (nr. 31), ISBN 90-6754-189-3

32.Toegepaste filosofie in praktijk.

Bart Gremmen and Susanne Lijmbach (red.). 1991, xii + 202 pp., paperback (nr. 32), ISBN 90-6754-201-6

33.Law as a resource in agrarian struggles.

F. von Benda-Beckmann and M. van der Velde, Editors. 1992, viii + 319 pp., paperback, (nr. 33), ISBN 90-6754-202-4.

34.Negotiating agricultural development. Entanglements of bureaucrats and rural producers in Western Mexico.

Alberto Arce. 1993. xiv + 187 pp., paperback, (nr. 34), ISBN 90-6754-283-0.

35.Milieubeleid onder dak? Beleidsvoeringsprocessen in het Nederlandse milieubeleid in de periode 1970-1990; nader uitgewerkt voor de Gelderse Vallei (PhD thesis).

Jan van Tatenhove. 1993, 3 16 pp., paperback, (nr. 35), ISBN 90-6754-306-3.

36.Of computers, myths and modelling. The social construction of diversity, knowledge information and communication technologies in Dutch horticulture and agricultural extension (PhD thesis).

Cees Leeuwis. 1993, xii + 468 pp., paperback, (nr. 36), ISBN 90-6754-308-X

37.Agricultural restructuring and rural change in Europe

David Symes and Anton J. Jansen (eds.),236pp. (nr. 37), ISBN 90-6754-372-1


[i] In Dutch “Mededelingen van de vakgroepen voor sociologie”.

[ii] In Dutch “Wageningen Sociologische Studies”.

75th anniversary: 29) Watch or re-watch the recorded lectures in our RSO 75 Years Anniversary Seminar Series

We kicked-off our seminar series ‘Looking back, Looking Forward: Setting a future agenda for rural sociology’ as part of the 75th anniversary celebration of Rural Sociology. The seminars lead-up to our grand anniversary celebration on May 13, 2022. For this anniversary seminar series we have invited a range of highly interesting scholars active in diverse fields closely linked to rural sociology and engaging with research themes, questions, approaches, and concepts relevant for the research agenda of rural sociology. The seminars engage with current work of the speaker as well as the context of past debates and future issues for rural sociology. You can watch the past two seminars on our YouTube channel. See here the announcement for our next seminar (May 19) on migrant labour in agriculture. Webinar: Migrant labour in agriculture | Rural Sociology Wageningen University

Lecture 1: ‘Farming Inside Invisible Worlds: Political ontologies of modernist agriculture’:         

Hugh Campbell, University of Otago, New Zealand

Date: 3d February 2021

This talk examines the way in which an explicit focus on colonisation can open up new ways to understand the power of modernist farms. Using the example of colonisation in Aotearoa New Zealand, farms are revealed as agents of ontological politics: both being created by the colonisation of indigenous worlds in many parts of the globe, but then also becoming agents that enacted a new, ‘scientific’, pacified, and highly ontologically-bounded modernist world. The outcome is a very specific kind of highly-empowered modernist/capitalist farming, locked into ‘farming inside invisible worlds’. The story of farming in Aotearoa New Zealand from colonisation to the present day reveals both the enormous colonising powers of modernist/capitalist farming, but also the inevitable fractures, overflows and contests that signal its inevitable demise.

Lecture 2: ‘Towards a Gaian agriculture’

Anna Krzywoszynska, University of Sheffield, UK

Date: 28th April 2021

This talk is concerned with the role for agri environmental social sciences in understanding the new human condition called by some “the Anthropocene”, and what I increasingly think of as the challenge of living with Gaia How have we become so lost that our most fundamental relationship with the environment, food getting, has come to undermine both our futures and those of our environments? And what is needed to build a new pact between humans and living ecosystems? I have been exploring these questions specifically in relation to soil as an existentially and conceptually crucial matter In this paper, I examine modern farming as built on multiple alienations, and propose the conditions under which re connection and a building agricultures which work with Gaia may become possible.

Reply of the European Commission to the Open letter on the EU’s ‘Farmers for the Future’ Report and the Farm to Fork Strategy

On March 11, we published an open letter to Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice-President of the European Commission, Janusz Wojciechowski, European Commissioner for Agriculture, and Norbert Lins, President of COMAGRI of the European Parliament  about the ‘Farmers for the Future’ (EUR 30464 EN) policy report. Signed by many academics from different countries in Europe, the letter wrote: “[W]e observe that ‘Farmers for the Future’ critically fails to make use of, or build upon, Europe’s rich academic tradition of exploring and extrapolating the wide and richly-chequered heterogeneity of its agriculture. We also observe that the report does not offer evidence-based, scientific, support that can contribute to the process of European policy making. Instead, ‘Farmers for the Future’  contains and introduces dangerous biases into the discussions and debates.” See the post: Open letter on the EU’s ‘Farmers for the Future’ Report and the Farm to Fork Strategy | Rural Sociology Wageningen University

In his response to the letter, European Commissioner for Agriculture Janusz Wojciechowski writes “I welcome your comments, as this study precisely aims at triggering a debate about the future of EU farmers, in order to raise relevant policy questions”.

Read the letter here.

75th Anniversary: 26) History and Sociology

Chair excursion to the peat-area in Drenthe (beginning of the eighties). From left to right: Aart Snel (our secretary), Ad van der Woude, Willibrord Rutte, Jouke Wigboldus, Jaap Buis and Henk Roessingh. On his back with the Edelman-drill: Jan Bieleman. Next to him one of our students. The photo was taken by Anton Schuurman.

By Anton Schuurman, Rural and Environmental History

The fame of the chair group Rural History brought me in 1978 to Wageningen. The Wageningen history group was at that time different from all the others history groups in the Netherlands – it was doing social science history, history as a social science with the methods of the social sciences with as its most characteristic feature the use of quantitative methods and statistics. It is still the message of our group: ‘We apply comparative historical methods to better understand long-term patterns of interdependence between people, institutions and environments. Our empirical work builds on a combination of qualitative sources and large statistical datasets, which we construct from historical archives across the globe.’ – it reads on our internet page. Although nowadays part of the section Economics of the Social Sciences Group – perhaps partly due to the fact that the heirs of Hofstee seem to have lost interest in doing quantitative work – , the chair group owned its existence to the tenacity of the same Hofstee (as so many of the social sciences chairs in Wageningen do) who succeeded finally in 1956 to lure Slicher van Bath away from Groningen to Wageningen.

Hofstee was a history-orientated sociologist (well, social geographer), as was explained earlier in these blogs, who later named his own way of doing sociology: encompassing sociology (differentiële sociologie – see  blog 5. In blog 5 the English translation is differential sociology. I prefer encompassing sociology – a term from Charles Tilly (Tilly, 1984; Schuurman, 1996), which in my view better captures Hofstee’s intention, although I suspect that Hofstee himself saw the title as  a reference to La vocation actuelle de la sociologie. Vers la sociologie différentielle (1957) by Georges Gurvitch).

Hofstee’s work played a large role in our work at RHi– he was our favourite scape goat. As all the sociologist he thought that the world had only changed in the 19th century – the famous process of modernisation, urbanisation and industrialisation. Before that – it were the Middle Ages, people working since time immemorial by the sweat of one’s brow. How wrong he was, how wrong the sociologist are. Slicher revealed the process of proto-industrialisation in Overijssel in the eighteenth century; Roessingh, using Chayanov far before Jan Douwe rediscovered him, demonstrated how the farmers on the Veluwe adapted their farming practices in their search for security; Van der Woude showed that the nuclear family was the default family in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Holland, Bieleman revealed the many changes in agriculture in Drenthe instead of the eternal rye cultivation  (“eeuwige roggebouw”). I could go on. The sociologists made us feel pretty smart.

I have to confess that my attitude to Hofstee was a bit different. Of course, he was a sociologist and prejudice-ridden, but for my work on the material culture of the Dutch countryside I was inspired by his encompassing sociology. I admired and admire his three-volume book Differentiële sociologie. It can still be used, maybe especially by global sociologists. Hofstee was my hero next to Elias, Bourdieu, Benjamin and Giedeon. But I was also influenced by other Wageningen sociologists – most of all by Rien Munters who had written his book Rising and declining cultural goods (Stijgende en dalende cultuurgoederen) (Munters, 1977). He claimed that in a real open society goods would diffuse in every social direction – but, in fact, even in the famous open society of the seventies he found just one rising good: rolling one’s own tobacco. In the nineteenth century countryside I also found just one: the sewing machine.

Later Munters had an even larger influence on me by letting me join the Giddens-circle, where I read together with Gert Spaargaren, Peter Oosterveer, Jan van Tatenhove, Tuur Mol, Frans von Benda-Beckmann and many others, contemporary sociologists from Giddens to Baumann, Urry  and Elden-Vass. The historian I became, I became because of Wageningen and of the Wageningen sociology group.

PS When I may do a public appeal: Sociology was so much more than Hofstee. I would like to read stories about or from his staff -members – Nooij, Kooy, De Ru, Benvenutti, Van der Ban, Munters, Wichers and many others – who wrote sometimes books that did become classics and who taught and influenced generations of sociologists. I remember Piet Holleman who not only made all the maps for the sociology group, but also for us; Corry Rothuizen who was at the department sociology when Hofstee worked there, and who is still working for Environmental Policy; Henk van Espelo who made the cartophoot-map that is still to see in the Leeuwenborch – there certainly will be other person who could write about them.  I personally have less knowledge of the non-Western sociology group, but I would love to hear, e.g., a story on Rudy van Lier, direct colleague of Hofstee, as non-Western sociologist, but so different from him.

  • Munters, Q. J. (1977). Stijgende en dalende cultuurgoederen. De “open” samenleving ter discussie. Alphen aan den Rijn 1977 Samsom.
  • Schuurman, Anton. (1996). Mensen maken verschil. Sociale theorie, historische sociologie en geschiedenis. Tijdschrift voor Sociale Geschiedenis, 22(2), 168-205.
  • Tilly, Charles. (1984). Big structures, large processes, huge comparisons. New York 1984 Russell sage foundation.

75th Anniversary: 25) De Stad-Platteland Tegenstelling

Door Henk Oostindie

In de jubileum publicatie rondom ons 25 jarig bestaan leverde Lijfering een bijdrage onder de titel ‘het rural-urban continuüm in het licht van sociale veranderingen’. In die bijdrage gaat Leifferink in op de zin en onzin van dichotomisch denken en de noodzaak om de begrippen stad-en platteland als ideaaltypen te beschouwen. Vertrekkende vanuit het centrale begrip menselijke nederzetting, verwijst Lijfering naar de volgende drie dominante onderscheidende kenmerken: het fysieke milieu, de sociale interactie en het cultuurpatroon. Naast deze in zijn ogen verhelderende invalshoeken om stad en platteland als anachronismen nader te duiden, komt Leifering met het voorstel om meer expliciet aandacht te besteden aan wat hij benoemt als ‘functionele stad-platteland patronen’. Continue reading

75th Anniversary: 24) Rural Sociology and the making of the Health and Society Group

The inaugural lecture by Maria Koelen upon taking up the post of Professor of Health and Society at Wageningen University on 10 March 2011 (source: Health and Society website)

By Maria Koelen (Professor Emeritus of the chairgroup Health and Society)

Belief it or not, but the young Health and Society Group has its origin in the 75 years old Rural Sociology of Wageningen University. In fact, Professor Evert Willem Hofstee, the founder of Rural Sociologie (1946) as has been mentioned often in this blog, started to pave the road to it. The Agricultural University (at the time Landbouw Hogeschool) developed a lot of scientific, technological and economic insights for farming practice, which was transferred to the farmers through agricultural extension educators employed by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. The prevailing idea was that farmers would appreciate these insights and, from a kind of self-interest, would apply these insights into their daily practice. However, as Hofstee argued in 1953, just transferring these insights to the farmers would not suffice. He advocated an additional, sociological approach and to pay attention to social groups and culture. This idea caught on with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. To operationalise the idea, in 1955 the Ministry seconded its employee Anne Van Den Ban to the Rural Sociology group to advance this type of research. With his appointment, the foundation has been laid for a new interdisciplinary field “extension education”, in Dutch “Voorlichtingskunde”. In 1963 Van Den Ban obtained his PhD under supervision of Professor Hofstee and in 1964 he was appointed to be the first professor in this field. Continue reading

Open letter on the EU’s ‘Farmers for the Future’ Report and the Farm to Fork Strategy

Open letter of European scholars to (in English, French and Spanish):

  • Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice-President of the European Commission
  • Janusz Wojciechowski, European Commissioner for Agriculture,
  • Norbert Lins, President of COMAGRI of the European Parliament.

Re: ‘Farmers for the Future’

Wageningen, 10th of March 2021

Dear Sirs,

In 2020 the European Commission released ‘Farmers for the Future’ (EUR 30464 EN), a Science for Policy Report, prepared by the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission. This policy report is intended to contribute to the further elucidation of the EU’s Farm to Fork Strategy which is a key element of the European Green Deal. It has, at its core, a description of 12 profiles that are attempt to categorize the likely diversity and range of professional farming styles in European agriculture in 2040. The report asks, and tries to respond to, the following question: “ Who will be the key players of the EU next generation agriculture, the farmers of the future?” Continue reading