The contested redefinition of a sustainable countryside: revisiting Frouws' rurality discourses

F.L.P. Hermans, L.G. Horlings, P.J. Beers, J.T. Mommaas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


This article gives an overview of the present day discourses on the sustainable development of Dutch agriculture. It aims to advance rural sociology by illustrating how these sustainability discourses actually contain completely opposing views of the future of the countryside. A qualitative analysis of interviews done with innovators in the agricultural sector indicates that the different discourses on the sustainable development of agriculture are a natural continuation of the different views of rurality previously identified by Jaap Frouws (1998). The redefinition of Dutch agriculture and the Dutch countryside is still contested; each discourse has its own vision on the sustainable development of the sector and the surrounding space. We conclude, therefore, that sustainable development has not functioned as an unifying concept to help different parties overcome their differences and work on win-win solutions. The sustainability agenda seems to have intensified an already slumbering difference of interests and perspectives, with the utilitarian, the agri-ruralist and the hedonist discourse each incorporating their own sustainability perspective. The hedonist and utilitarian discourses in particular aspire to sustainable agriculture on different scales and with opposing arguments. In a many respects they are polar opposites, and this has consequences for the possibility of bringing together stakeholders working towards sustainable agriculture.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)46-63
JournalSociologia Ruralis
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • agriculture
  • netherlands

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