From risky to responsible: expert knowledge and the governing of community-led rural development
Herbert-Cheshire, L and Higgins, V, From risky to responsible: expert knowledge and the governing of community-led rural development, Journal of Rural Studies, 20, (3) pp. 289-302. ISSN 0743-0167 (2004) [Refereed Article]
Rural development policy and practice in the ‘advanced’ Western nations is based increasingly on community-led strategies that seek to manage risk and facilitate change at the local level with minimal direct state intervention. It is widely assumed that such development strategies enable local people to have a greater say in transforming the fortunes of their communities, and are therefore a means of empowerment. Drawing upon the literature on governmentality, this paper argues with specific reference to Australia that such a view depoliticises the significant role played by expertise in defining, governing and setting limits on community-led rural development. We suggest that the notion of risk provides a crucial focal point for exploring sociologically the expert knowledge, categories and techniques through which communities are encouraged to think of and manage themselves as ‘self-governing’, ‘empowered’ and ‘responsible’. Additionally, foregrounding the concept of risk enables a critical analysis of the power-knowledge effects of expertise on rural development practice. Thus, we argue through the use of two case studies that while the use of various forms of rural development expertise creates opportunities for some communities, it enhances inequality for others who either fail to conform to the risk-minimising forms of conduct prescribed by experts, or who pursue alternative forms of development. The paper concludes by considering the implications of these arguments for rural development policy and practice in Australia and in other nations.
rural development, governance, neoliberalism, Australia