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Agriculture and inequalities: Gentrification in a Scottish parish

Sutherland, Lee-Ann
Journal of rural studies 2019 v.68 pp. 240-250
agricultural land, capital, commercial farms, interviews, land ownership, land values, lifestyle, managers, socioeconomic status, subsidies
This paper focuses on the privileges associated with agricultural land ownership, as reflected in a peri-urban transition process. Qualitative interviews were conducted with 56 land managers in and around a single Scottish parish (municipality), representing over 90% of the land in the region. Multiple intersecting transition processes were identified, resulting (in part) from migration to the region of ex-urban lifestyle property seekers. The author argues that these changes represent gentrification: the replacement of existing land users by those of higher social status, leading to visible changes in the appearance of the locale. Drawing on Lukes' ‘three faces of power’ and Bourdieu's conceptualisation of capital exchange, the author demonstrates that ownership of agricultural land – achieved through inheritance or direct purchase – enables production of symbolic wealth. The analysis illuminates ongoing processes of horsification, simplification and de-commercialisation of agricultural land, which have altered the visual appearance of the parish. Rising land values restrict access for new entrants to commercial farming, but have enabled environmental gains to be achieved outside of state-funded subsidies. The paper demonstrates the privileges associated with agricultural land ownership, the social differentiation processes embedding access to agricultural affordances, and the assembly of agricultural practices into privileged and recreational experiences.