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'Critically assess the extent to which the concept of the rural idyll is relevant to an understanding of contemporary rural identities'.

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Introduction

Contested Countryside - Assignment 1 'Critically assess the extent to which the concept of the rural idyll is relevant to an understanding of contemporary rural identities'. The concept of 'rural idyll' with reference to the countryside can be described as a representation of 'an ideal society which is orderly, harmonious, healthy, secure, peaceful and a refuge from modernity.' (Ilbery, 1998). Ilbery suggests in this statement that there is a clear contrast drawn between the countryside or the 'rural idyll' and modernity, a representation of modern urban identity. This idea is supported by Phillips (1984) describing rural idyll as 'A positive image which is seen as opposing the uncertainty and confusion of the city and which creates a rural identity that is timeless'. Whilst the common conception is to define the two extremes of rural and urban, there is great inconsistency and preciseness in the exact definition of the term 'rural'. Halfacree (1993) suggests that 'the quest for any single, all embracing definition of the rural is neither desirable or feasible'. Despite the category itself having an influence upon behaviour and decision making. ...read more.

Middle

Those who live in rural areas are likely to do so because they desire what is often termed a romantic and idealistic setting in the countryside - away from urban areas, which are not settings of desire. This of course is the view of those who desire the countryside. Their view will of course differ from those who desire the city, those who will look upon urban settings as objects of disgust. There are of course extenuating circumstances such as the convenience of site and situation, particularly with relation to employment and services which form an importance in many people's lives. Many of those who live in urban environments do at some point, chose to migrate to the countryside either as a status of class and/or wealth, or as an escape from an undesirable setting. In which case, there are those who live in rural areas which view migration from towns and cities as a threat to an unspoilt and idyllic setting. A setting, which once was safe and distant from the contrast of urbanised areas, could be considered to be under threat, particularly with the movement of industrial centres to out-of-town settings. ...read more.

Conclusion

As is the case with the concept of the rural idyll, rural identities are very much socialistically defined and are person-specific. The idea that the countryside is timeless, unchanged or romantic is considered by many geographers to be nothing more than a myth, but many believe it to be the case. The concept of rural idyll itself is in question because of the dynamic structure of both rural and urban settings. Contemporary rural identities can be defined by many techniques such as census data but the relevance of the concept of rural idyll has to be brought into question, particularly as the concept itself is considered by many to be a myth. Even if such a perception were to be accepted, definition would be difficult, particularly to produce a widely accepted classification. The varied and incomprehensive definitions of the terms 'rural idyll' and 'contemporary rural identities' are under such scrutiny and are determined by dynamic factors. Such a circumstance does not make establishing the relevance of the former to the latter easy or clear-cut. For this reason it is sensible to suggest that the concept of the rural idyll, as an idealistic and theoretical approach is permissible, but the relevance to understanding contemporary (modern) rural identities is not feasible in dynamically structured settings such as rural and urban areas. ...read more.

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