Farm Labourers and the ‘New Urban Politics’: Bridging the Urban-Rural Divide

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This paper examines the provision of services to farm labor as an extension of the “new urban politics.” The new urban politics have focused on the position of cities in the emerging global economy and the efforts of elite agents in cities to manipulate that position. The issues involved in service provision, however, blend the scale and economic development questions currently at the center of debate in urban political analyses with questions of identity and of the changing meaning of “urban.” Concern for farm workers on the urban-rural fringe enhances understandings of local politics in three ways. First, it draws attention to the wide array of political agents operating at the local level. Second, the role of scale in creating uneven development within metropolitan areas is highlighted. Third, attention to the politics of service provision for farm labor makes clear the need to re-evaluate urban-rural dichotomies and their role in shaping local politics. Incorporating these issues into theories of local politics makes it possible to examine the ambiguity, political contentiousness, and new spaces for identity formation posed by the changing morphology and meaning of metropolitan areas.

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