To inquire about the reasons for American farmers to change their political allegiance - most of them who voted 2008 for Obama voted in 2016 for Trump – leads one to consider a host of factors. ... read more
To inquire about the reasons for American farmers to change their political allegiance - most of them who voted 2008 for Obama voted in 2016 for Trump – leads one to consider a host of factors. Dominant among them is the often precarious situation of farmers and the rural population in general in the U.S. – not only economically, but socially and culturally as well. As in many other modern societies an incisive change of rural life is the outcome of global competition, of an upgraded division of labor, of a loss of job opportunities and a concomitant population decrease in rural areas.
The hopes which the rural population has invested in Donald Trump so far have not paid off: On the contrary, the introduction of tariffs and counter-tariffs, the loss of revenue by the cancelled TPP agreement and downfall of prices have changed the situation for the worse. But political actors representing rural interests like the Farm Bureau still support Trump’s policies. Generally, political responses to the crisis in the rural areas in the Western societies have not kept pace with the extending range of problems of its vulnerable population.
Rural sociology covers much more than the intended and unintended consequences of modernized agriculture which might be too easily identified with big, dominating corporations like Bayer-Monsanto. About 95% of all farms in the U.S. are still family businesses – and many of them are struggling to survive. The seminar will look into the historical, the ideological and the social-structural aspects of this struggle. Comparative perspectives (Europe, Asia) will be part of this inquiry as well.
Arlie Russell Hochschild, Strangers in Their Own Land, New York 2016: The New Press.
Robert Wuthnow, The Left Behind. Decline and Rage in Rural America, Princeton 2018: Princeton University Press.