John W. Warnock

Social Structure of Rural Societies



University of Regina

Department of Sociology and Social Science

Sociology 217:001   Social Structure of Rural Societies

Instructor: Dr. John W. Warnock                                                    

Fall semester, 2003
Monday Evenings, 7 to 9:45 p.m.   



The course will be an introduction to the changing structures of rural life. It will examine pre-capitalist and peasant agricultural societies, the impact of colonialism on rural societies, rural and remote areas and their relationship to urban centres, the relationship between domestic commodity producers and the capitalist market, and the move towards industrial agriculture. There will be an analysis of the structure of patriarchy in rural and remote areas. While emphasis will be on rural communities in agricultural areas, coverage will also be given to other resource extraction economies in remote rural areas. Special emphasis will be on Saskatchewan and Canada. The course will also look at various theories of rural social change.




There is no text for the course. A series of readings have been compiled through the university's Cancopy system and will be available in the University of Regina bookstore.  Additional readings will be assigned from the following  journal. Five copies are on the Sociology 217 reserve in the Main Library for overnight use: 


Fred Magdoff, Frederick H. Buttel and John Bellamy Foster, eds. "Hungry for Profit; Agriculture, Food and Ecology." Monthly Review, Vol. 50, July/August 1998. Special issue.  Other special reading materials will be distributed in the class.


 A research paper is required, and it will represent 50 percent of the mark for the course, due on November 24, 2003. The research process will be discussed in class. There will be a mid-term exam for the course, which will be on October 20; it will count for 25 percent of the mark for the course. There will be a final exam for the course; it will be worth 25 percent of the final mark.


 September 8:  Introduction to the course. What is rural sociology? The origins of agriculture.

 Reading Assignment:

 Howard Newby and Frederick H. Buttel, " Toward a Critical Rural Sociology."  
 Ellen M. Wood, "The Agrarian Origins of capitalism. In Magdoff, pp. 14-31. 

 September 15    Social structure of pre-capitalist agricultural  communities: mode of  production and the economic surplus.
 Reading assignment:

 John W. Warnock, "Economics, Political Economy and Human Society."             

September 22  The impact of colonialism and European capitalism on rural and agricultural areas..
Reading assignment:

 John Madeley, "Third World Agriculture: Who Grows What?"
 George L. Beckford, "Plantations in Third World Economy."

September 29   Resource extraction, remote communities and enclave development.
Reading assignment:

Roy T. Bowles, "Single Industry Resource Communities in Canada's North."

October 6    Domestic commodity production and the politics of populism.
Reading assignment:

Craig Palmer and Peter Sinclair, "Introduction to When the Fish are Gone."                     

John W. Warnock, "Populism of the Political Left and Right."                    

Research topics due.  


October 13  Patriarchy and rural societies: the origin of patriarchy, theories, and its persistence in rural societies.
Reading assignment:

 Sally Shortall, "Women and Farming Organizations."
Marit S. Haugen, "Rural Women's Family and Property Law: Lessons from Norway."                    

John W. Warnock, "The Persistence of Patriarchy."  
October 20 Mid Term exam. Class discussion of research papers and topics.
October 27 Rural communities as hinterland areas.
Reading assignment:

 Janine Brodie, "Theories of Regional Imbalance."      
 John W. Warnock, "Regional Disparity and Hinterland Areas.                

November 3  The industrial agrifood system and international food chains.
Reading assignment:

 William D. Heffernan, "Agriculture and Monopoly Capital." In Magdoff et al, pp. 46-54.
 R.C. Lewontin, "The Maturing of Capitalist Agriculture: Farmer as Proletarian, in Magdoff, pp. 72-84.
 Thomas N. Urban, "Industrialization of the World's Food System."                 

November 10    Downgraded labour: women and farm workers in rural communities.
Reading assignment:

Fiona Wilson, "Workshops as Domestic Domains."   
B. Singh Bolaria, "Farm Labour, Work Conditions and Health Risks."
Enzo Mingione and Enrico Pugliese, "Rural Subsistence, Migration, Urbanization, and the New Global    Food Regime."

November 17.    Ecological issues in rural, agricultural Canada.
Reading assignment:

 Miguel A. Altieri, "Ecological Impacts of Industrial Agriculture and the Possibility for Truly Sustainable Farming." In Magdoff, pp. 60-71.
Gerald Middendorf et al, "New Agricultural Biotechnologies: The Struggle for Democratic Choice." In Magdoff et al, pp. 85-96.
 John Bellamy Foster and Fred Magdoff, "Liebig, Marx, and the Depletion of Soil Fertility: Relevance for Today's Agriculture." In Magdoff, pp. 32-45.                


November 24.    Is sustainable agriculture possible in the era of free trade?
Reading assignment:

Philip McMichael, "Global Food Politics." In Magdoff et al, pp. 97-111.
John Madeley, "Trade Liberalization." 15 pp.
Darrin Qualman and Nettie Wiebe, "Structural Adjustment of Canadian Agriculture." 15 pp.            Research papers due.

December 1 Popular resistance to capitalist, industrial agriculture and the neoliberal order.
Reading  assignment:

Elizabeth Henderson,  "Rebuilding Local Food Systems from the Grassroots Up." in Magdoff et al, pp. 112-124.
Joel Kovel, "Beyond Populism."
Walden Bello, " The Multiple Crises of Global Capitalism."  




Students will be asked to do a research paper within one of the following topic areas. These areas have been chosen because they represent key contemporary issues in rural Saskatchewan. The instructor will set aside time in class for a general discussion of the papers and the topic areas.  The students are to choose a research paper by October 6. Topics should be approved by the instructor.

Students are reminded that they are to follow the University's regulations as stated  in the undergraduate calendar. Assignments are expected to be on time. Special permission may be granted by the instructor for late assignments or missing an examination. It is expected that students will follow the general social science format in writing the research paper.

The research paper accounts for 50 percent of the mark for the class. It is expected that the student will research and write a serious paper. It should be no longer than 5,000 words, or roughly 20 pages, typed and double spaced.




(1) The impact of the free trade agreements on the prairie grain marketing system, meat production and rural communities. This would include increased dependence on the U.S. market, the demise of the marketing board system, the weakening of the co-operative system, and the expansion of large agribusiness corporations in the prairie market. What is the impact of increasing foreign ownership and control of the agribusiness sector?    


(2) The introduction of large corporate hog barns to the prairie economy. Their introduction raises issues of environmental pollution, economic centralization, vertical integration with agribusiness corporations, and worker health and safety issues. Given their historic populist roots, why has the NDP government given this development such strong support? How have rural communities in Saskatchewan responded to this development?     


(3) Biotechnology and biodiversity are major international issues in the food and development area. Biotechnology is well developed in Saskatchewan, where it has strong support from the provincial government and agribusiness. Cross genetic breeding is very controversial; in Saskatchewan it is done mainly to develop crops which can tolerate stronger applications of herbicides. It is seen by critics as the opposite of sustainable agriculture. On the world wide basis biotechnology is opposed by groups supporting small farmers, the rights of "third world" farmers, supporters of ecological agriculture and biodiversity, and those opposed to patenting plants and animal life. It  has strong support from the large chemical and seed corporations, most governments, and the agricultural research community. Farm organizations are divided on the issue.    


(4) The persistence of patriarchy in rural Canada and Saskatchewan is a continuing issue. Why is it that patriarchal values are so deeply entrenched in rural areas? How does this affect women in rural Saskatchewan?  What role do rural institutions play in protecting patriarchal values? Why is it that the strongest support for REAL Women in Canada is found in rural Saskatchewan?

In recent years rural sociologists have begun to research and document how rural masculinities are created and protected. At the core of this is the dominant hegemonic position, that farmers are men, that men should own the agricultural land, and that farms should be passed on from father to son. In the United States, rural sociologists have begun to examine the rise of the right-wing militia groups as one form of rural masculinity. This is an area ripe for research in Saskatchewan.     


(5) What are the problems associated with resource extraction industries in Saskatchewan?  The extraction of uranium, potash, coal, oil, natural gas and wood products takes place primarily in isolated rural communities. What is the impact of the present system of resource extraction on Aboriginal communities?     


(6) Aboriginal communities in the Saskatchewan farm belt. How have Aboriginal communities, based in rural Saskatchewan, adjusted to the shift to producing goods for consumption and the market? How have Aboriginal communities organized agricultural production? What is the experience of Aboriginal communities in dealing with mainstream farm and agribusiness organizations? How are they organizing the use of new land acquired under the Treaty Land Entitlement settlements?

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