Rural–urban linkages for sustainable development: An introduction

Armin Kratzer and Jutta Kister

A threefold view: The rural, the urban and the “in-between”

Traditionally, rural and urban spaces have been treated as separate entities with special characteristics. As von Braun (2007) states, this rural/urban divide is based on geographical endowments, agglomeration economies and the urban bias in policies that determined comparative or absolute advantages. To others, the spatial division of labour in the Fordistic era has reproduced and intensified the distinction between urban and rural (see Cloke and Goodwin. 1992). There are numerous attempts to define the rural, rural areas or rurality as well as cities, urban areas or urbanity (see e.g. Cloke, 2006; Mumford. 1968; Woods, 2005). Although rural areas have long been the most important settlement areas in history, the city and country have often been seen as dualistic, with the city at the focal point and the rural as the "other", the non-urban (Woods, 2017). Authors differentiated towns as the controlled and enclosed space from the uncontrollable and "wild” rural areas (Woods, 2011). Historically, the legal concept of a city was important. The granting of a town charter led to certain privileges, such as the holding of a market. This was particularly important in medieval European cities. Today, concepts for differentiation include administrative, economic, social or cultural terms. An administrative approach uses certain thresholds of population or other features to classify areas "objectively”. Economically, scholars and policymakers generally associate rural areas with the primary economic sector and with livelihoods based on farming or forestry. In urban areas, the bulk of economic activity is directed towards non-agricultural production. Urban areas therefore provide a wider range of employment opportunities. This tends to increase the number of commuters (van Leeuwen, 2010). Consequently, commuting patterns are often used to define urban catchment areas that go beyond the actual urban territory.

Social and cultural criteria to define urban and rural are far more complicated to measure. They capture certain types of lifestyle, values, behaviour, meaning or the social and cultural characteristics of communities (Gough et al., 2014a). Woods (2005) mentions Ferdinand Tonnies and Louis Wirth as two prominent historical examples working in this field. Tönnies distinguished the Gemeinschaft (community) of rural areas from the Gesellschaft (society) of urban areas. In the latter, individuals use other urban inhabitants to fulfil their goals. The relationships between the people in urban areas are mere functional. In rural areas, the individual is part of a larger social whole (community) to which he/she belongs. The community suffices itself and aligns its actions with the overriding purpose. Individuals in urban areas use others to achieve their personal goals. He/she participates in society only when necessary. Otherwise, he/she is more likely to be separated from others. For Tönnies there is no action here that refers to a collective or community good, but only to the self-interested will. For Wirth the urban life was dynamic, impersonal and unstable with a lot of different contact. Rural life, on the contrary, was stable and integrated with the same people interacting in different contexts (Wirth, 1938). To what extent this division represented reality in the past cannot be conclusively judged here. Based on our experience in different parts of Latin America and Europe (e.g. communidade in marginal settlements) we argue that cities and rural areas are much more diverse than presented by Wirth and Tönnies.

What these definitions have in common is that they only cover certain aspects of urban and rural areas. A geographical definition of urban, therefore, is more complex and includes several combined aspects. A geographical definition of a city therefore includes several combined aspects such as higher centrality (excess of importance in relation to the surrounding area), higher population and building density, social and ethnic diversity and cities as innovation spaces for new technologies, trends, norms or values. The last one is assumed to emerge in the creative milieus of cities and then spread to rural areas (Heineberg, 2013).

The boundaries between city and countryside were very pronounced until the beginning of the industrial age in physiognomic and legal terms but have increasingly converged ever since. Their boundaries have become blurred. Indeed, there are numerous problems today in defining what is rural and urban. Statistical definitions are based on the place of residence of the population or on agriculture as the characteristic economic activity of rural areas. However, population thresholds vary in many countries. In addition, the administrative boundaries, especially in large cities, do not correspond to the actual functional boundaries or the perception of the “urban” (e.g. for Sao Paulo (Brazil) see Coy and Töpfer, 2016). Agriculture often is not the main source of income for rural people. In fact, there are changes and diversifications of rural economies, which are leading to a strong decline of the importance of agriculture in general (Gough. 2017; Tacoli, 1998). In the meantime, tourism, housing and recreation have become important subjects for the rural economy. For example, in the European Union, the service sector is the most important economic sector in rural areas. In 2010 it accounted for 64.6% of total value added, while agriculture, forestry and fisheries accounted for only 4.4% (European Commission. 2013). In almost every country of the Union, the diversification of the economy has increased. In the EU as a whole, 6.8% of farms have at least one additional source of income; in Austria, this figure rises to more than 50% (European Commission. 2018). On the other hand, urban agriculture is a growing source of income for urban dwellers. In addition. innovations are no longer seen as exclusively urban. Social innovations and a new creative industry are located in rural areas as well (Bosworth et al., 2016; Herslund, 2012; Neumeier, 2017).

These eroding dichotomies between city and country are best visible in a new spatial category. After the Second World War, the increasing suburbanization of people and economic processes led to rows of detached houses, industrial parks, offices and emerging shopping centres on the outskirts of cities. These new functions compete with traditional rural structures and. among other things, change the dependence on the core city. Industrialization and globalization also have resulted in enormous changes in landuse patterns and the division of labour. As a result, a complex web of areas that are neither urban nor rural but with features of both has developed (Tacoli, 2003). Many terms describe these areas. The rural-urban interface, rural-urban fringe, peri-urban space, urban villages or rurban are just a few examples of names for these spaces. In German-speaking countries the term Zwischenstadt has gained prominence in the last few decades (Sieverts, 1997). It describes a settlement structure that can be assigned neither to the city nor to the rural area. Lynch (2009, p. 15; originally in Mbiba, 2001) summarizes the various definitions of the “most widespread term” peri-urban (Woods, 2017). For this book, the most relevant are:

  • SpatialHocational: Based on distance from the city centre and relative to the built environment, e.g. peri-urban, such as those zones at the edge of the built-up areas. Draws on land-use values and proportion of non-agricultural activities in them. Considers an area or activity in terms of the legal or administrative boundary of the city, those just outside being peri-urban
  • Temporal: Areas recently incorporated into the city or that are contiguous to the city and whose use (usually built development) is recent or below a certain age (maybe 5-10 years)
  • Functional: Areas that are outside the city boundary but are functionally integrated or linked to the city because of certain criteria and cut-off points, e.g. supply of fresh produce to the city, daily commuting to the city, labour participation, etc.

Another response to the fact that municipalities contain elements of rural and urban characteristics was a shift from a binary to a polar perspective. In other words, the city and the countryside were no longer seen as opposite, but as the two poles of the so-called rural-urban continuum (see Dewey, 1960; Pahl. 1966) with different degrees of urban and rural characteristics. This became particularly important in the USA, where all counties were classified on the basis of this concept (Woods and Heley, 2017). Land use and population density are the most important indicators for defining the individual spatial types. The linear transition within the concept was criticized a lot. Pahl (1966). for example, found that social criteria such as class or gender were much more important than the form of settlement. In a both a more rural and more urban place one finds the same way of life and social relationships, i.e. according to Pahl there is no linear transition.

However, all these categories do not adequately represent economic and social practice either as they ignore the different functional linkages between them. Those are grounded in products and services, consumption, labour, social networks and environmental relations (Berdegue et al., 2014). Rural areas have provided food and water, fossil and renewable energy, timber for houses and fibre for clothing throughout history. People commute to the cities for work or education. Livelihoods and production networks depend on the relations between rural, peri-urban and urban (Tacoli. 2003). Consequently, rural-urban dynamics and relations were debated among scholars for decades (Gough et al., 2014b). New correlations and exogenous processes, however, require a re-examination and re-evaluation of the processes.

The new context of rural-urban linkages

Today, there is a rapid ongoing change in human-environmental relationships that connect different levels together. On a global level, human activities pose an even greater threat to the robustness of the entire Earth system than natural processes (Steffen et al., 2015). In their publications concerning the Anthropocene Crutzen and Stoermer (2000) and Crutzen (2002) reflect on the idea that human beings have become globally effective through their local actions. Regional problems of the past, such as pollution or resource depletion. remained regional because they were isolated from the rest of the world (Costanza et al., 2010). Incremental interventions such as clean technologies or safety standards were sufficient to address them (Geels, 2010).

Urbanization, liberalization of trade and an accelerating globalization as a result of the western model of production and consumption and "imperial modes of living” (Brand and Wissen, 2017), however, have tightened the scales together. Processes of globalization have led to the formation of a "network society" and the “space of flows” (Castells, 2010b). Information and communication technologies reshape the global economic and social landscape, the forms of employment and work, as well as power relations. The increased interconnection implies that the challenges of one region, one city or company affect the vulnerability of others, for now and many years to come. This is not limited to environmental challenges like climate change. Traditionally, rural regions were hardly linked to distant areas. However, the liberalization of trade and a high mobility of people and goods have linked these peripheries with global processes, in particular with global production networks, at an unprecedented speed and intensity (see e.g. Agergaard et al., 2009). Global value chains increase the intensity of industrial exploitation of natural resources that reaches global proportions. This global labour fragmentation reduces the importance of local supply chains (Woods. 2017). From these processes follows a dramatic loss of biodiversity, while biophysical cycles are contaminated with waste and emissions (Brand, 2017). Every activity on the local level contributes to e.g. global climate change so that in sum the anthropogenic influence on the global processes exceeds natural forces. This global change, in turn, brings new challenges at local and regional level. The differentiability of cause and effect becomes more and more diffuse (Coy and Stotter, 2011). The term "glocalization" (see e.g. Roudome-tof, 2016 and "glocal space" in Pachura’s contribution to this book) attempts to capture the simultaneous occurrence at a given point in the world. Especially in the Global South, globalization processes simultaneously take place with local efforts for resistance, post-productivism and climate change mitigation (Neuburger, 2014). Glocalization in this sense means peasants living in hybrid landscapes that represent their entangled ruralities (Neuburger, 2019).

Manuel Castells (2010a, p. 2738) stated that we are in the middle of "the largest wave of urbanisation in human history". Indeed, cities and their populations are rising all over the world (Scott and Storper, 2015). In the 1950s, only 30% of the global population lived in urban areas. In 2018, it was more than 55%. This percentage is also expected to increase in the next decades, especially in Africa, Asia and Latin America (United Nations, 2018). In this process, the rural and urban areas interwove in many areas around the world (Brenner, 2014; Brenner and Schmid, 2011; Lynch, 2009; Seto and Ramankutty, 2016). Cities are centres of production and consumption, of innovation and creativity that positively affect larger areas. Especially when they grow, urban areas are also culmination points of energy demand, environmental pollution, of resource use and waste. They not only put pressure on the city’s biodiversity, hydro- and food systems, land use and cover, but on the surrounding areas as well. The consequences for the hinterland and the surrounding rural areas are complex. Migration from rural areas to cities for e.g. economic purposes causes a growing demographic imbalance while at the same time migration in the other direction and related infrastructure urbanizes the rural (Trzyna. 2014). The growing urban demand for rural products and services leads to emerging actors in rural areas, introducing new practices and reducing the power of incumbent rural actors (Horlings and Marsden, 2014). The material development (e.g. buildings, and roads connecting larger cities) and large-scale land uses like power stations in the peri-urban areas, which expand into the countryside, add to this urban intervention into rural areas. In this respect. Woods (2005) mentions several environmental effects, like pollution, destruction of habitats, local problems of waste disposal and water supply, and the disruption of drainage systems. Glocalization in this context means that cities have to deal with two opposing processes simultaneously. First, measures must be taken to act as a hub of a global economy for the prosperity of the city and the region. On the other hand, links with rural and peripheral areas need to be strengthened in order to provide cities with (sustainable) products and services and to be able to govern the urbanization process in a targeted manner.

Thus, the complex interplay between urban and rural areas is a key determinant for a transition to a more sustainable future (UN-Habitat, 2017). This idea is not new. The importance of links between urban and rural areas has been stressed several times in the context of the UN Habitat Programmes. The UN-Habitat I - Vancouver Action Plan (UN, 1977) already stressed the importance of regional planning to reduce the disparities between urban and rural areas. The Declaration on Cities and other Human Settlements in the New Millennium focused on cities as engines of development, from which rural areas also benefit. In 2005 the report on Urban-Rural Linkages Approach to Sustainable Development was published (UN-Habitat, 2005). As in the document The Future We Want, which is the outcome of the Rio +20 conference (UN, 2012), the advantages of strong links are addressed. In particular, the benefits of the urban for the surrounding rural areas are highlighted. Since 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) have highlighted this necessity (see UN, 2015). Especially in SDG 11 the target, 11. a seeks “to support positive economic, social and environmental links between urban, peri-urban and rural areas". As the goals are all interconnected, this one can only be achieved by considering the other. Within the New Urban Agenda (UN, 2016), rural and urban links have been high on the list of priorities (UN-Habitat, 2017).

We will encourage the implementation of sustainable urban and territorial planning, including city-region and metropolitan plans, to encourage synergies and interactions among urban areas of all sizes and their periurban and rural surroundings, including those that are cross-border, and we will support the development of sustainable regional infrastructure projects that stimulate sustainable economic productivity, promoting equitable growth of regions across the urban-rural continuum. In this regard, we will promote urban-rural partnerships and inter-municipal cooperation mechanisms based on functional territories and urban areas as effective instruments for performing municipal and metropolitan administrative tasks, delivering public services and promoting both local and regional development.

(UN, 2016, p. 25)

Different points for the analysis and development of the links are mentioned. These include, for example, spatial flows of products, services and information, mobility and migration, food security issues, the development of small and intermediate cities because of urbanization, environmental impacts, partnerships and investments (see UN-Habitat, 2017, p. 18).

Research aim and methods

This edited volume, Rural-Urban Linkages for Sustainable Development, aims to contribute to this debate from different perspectives in economic geography and human-environmental relationships. It is the outcome of the conference "Rural-Urban Linkages for Sustainable Development: An Economic Geography Perspective” held in Innsbruck in July 2018. The conference was supported by the International Geographical Unions (IGU) Commission on the Dynamics of Economic Spaces (CDES) and organized by the Department of the Geography at the University of Innsbruck. Authors of selected presentations from this conference contributed to this volume.

The following overall questions have guided this book and the conference:

  • • What are the contributions that economic geographers make to the research field of rural-urban linkages for sustainable development?
  • • How do rural-urban linkages effect key features and concepts of economic geography, e.g. innovation, entrepreneurship, value chains, consumption, labour or food systems in different countries?
  • • What lessons can be drawn from the study of the different linkages in different countries in relation to the sustainable development of regions?

In this introduction, we first summarize important fields of research and secondly present the authors' contributions to this book. In order to identify key literature in the research field, we have chosen a two-step procedure. We analyse the literature systematically based on a quantitative study of the bibliographic database Web of Science (WoS, Publications indexed by the Web of Science between 1900 and today (Oct. 2019) were analysed. On 15 October 2019 we used a topic/keyword-based search of the WoS Core Collection using terms related to flows between rural and urban like:

  • • “rural-urban linkage(s)"
  • • “rural-urban relation”
  • • “rural-urban partnerships”
  • • “rural-urban interactions”

Moreover, we have used words that refer to the spaces between the two categories, e.g. “rurban”, “fringe" or “peri-urban", because, in our experience, those are most common in geographical research. We have omitted all key words on sustainable development in order to define the significance of this topic in the literature. This dataset contained 27,681 publications with one or more of the above-mentioned terms in the title, abstract, author keywords or Keywords Plus. To focus this introduction, we have selected publications from the category Geography, which had 2061 publications.

From this final dataset, we retrieved information about individual documents, including authors, journals, titles, all keywords, references, and WoS categories. Using MS Excel 2016 we have described some basic data. e.g. the number of articles or the most important journals. Using CiteSpace (see Chen, 2014) we analysed the additional information of the dataset. It is an open source tool that uses a co-occurrence matrix to analyse keywords, WoS categories, and so on. The resulting network of keywords and WoS categories was further analysed with the Gephi software. Using the calculation of modularity classes (Blondel et al., 2008; Newman, 2006), components were identified that are more closely linked. They represent large topic areas or research foci concerning rural-urban linkages. In the last bibliometric step, the most cited articles in a class were qualitatively interpreted and the central fields of research were presented more precisely.

We have supplemented this data with a selective qualitative review of literature known from author’s experience. Following a snowball approach (see Biernacki and Waldorf, 1981), we have taken this data as a starting point to present the contributions of economic geographers to the research field of rural-urban linkages and to include this information to the bibliometric data. In this way, we present the research perspectives and fields qualitatively.

  • 4 A bibliometric overview of the geographical contributions to rural-urban relations
  • 4.1 Publications trend

Before the Rio Conference, only 117 articles were published. Those had no influence on the quantitative acceleration of publishing activities. Therefore, we have not included them in this section, but instead refer to them in the qualitative section (see below). Figure 1.1 shows all published articles (1.944) and citation counts in the field of Geography for the years 1992-2019. The number of contributions published annually has increased during those years indicating an increased significance of rural-urban linkages as well. Given the speed of the publication process, we assume the certain UN documents und conferences mentioned above (e.g. Habitat II (1996) and 111 (2016), Rio +20 (2012), SDG (2015)) have a significant influence on the years with a higher number of articles. It is remarkable that the number of citations has exponentially grown, from 20 in 1993 to 4,242 in 2018. By October 2019 the total number of citations increased to 27,402. However, as is quite common in scientific disciplines, the increase in citations is very unevenly distributed as far as the articles are concerned (Kratzer, 2018); 519 or 27% of all publications have never been cited. Conversely, the top 20% of the most cited papers receive almost 76% of all citations.

Research about rural-urban interactions is published in 177 journals listed in the Web of Science database. With 141 papers. Landscape and Urban Planning is the most active and by far the most cited journal (5,932 citations).

Numbers of citations (line, left-hand scale) and publications (columns, right-hand scale) per year, 1992 2019

Figure 1.1 Numbers of citations (line, left-hand scale) and publications (columns, right-hand scale) per year, 1992 2019.

The highest value for the ratio between the number of publications and the number of citations is 64 from the journal Progress in Human Geography. This means that each of its five articles gets an average number of 64 citations. Second in this ranking is the Journal of Economic Geography with 60, followed by Landscape and Urban Planning and Economic Geography. This indicates that the journals with the highest impact factor (Progress in Human Geography has the third highest impact factor (6.576), Journal of Economic Geography is in 11th place with 3.301, Landscape and Urban Planning is fourth (5.144), Economic Geography is second with an impact factor of 6.861; all impact factors 2018) are those who receive the most attention. The importance of economic geography in the field of rural-urban links is also shown by the fact that, among these four most frequently cited journals, two are economic-geographical ones.

There are contributions by a total of 3,321 authors, ranging from one to 11 authors. On average, 2.3 researchers write an article; 35% of them were written by only one person. This means that collaborative work and publishing of scientific questions is less common in the field. In total, authors from 87 countries publish articles dealing with the topic (see distribution in Figure

I. 2). Researchers from universities in the USA were involved in the production of 466 articles or 24% of all publications, followed by the UK (n — 216;

II. 5%) and Spain (n — 172; 8.9%). The UK (26), USA (24) and Germany (22) collaborate with the most countries.

Map of number of articles per country, 1900-2019

Figure 1.2 Map of number of articles per country, 1900-2019.

4.2 Topics

By analysing the network of co-occurring Web of Science categories and keywords and a manual examination of the most-cited articles in a cluster (for the method see also Kratzer 2018), we identified seven major research fields (Table 1.1). This, however, does not mean that these are the only ones or are isolated research areas. They simply reflect research hotspots based on the Web of Science database. As this book deals with aspects of economic geography, we only present a more detailed analysis of this class. There are several connections between the categories. There are also several economic aspects within all the other categories, e.g. agriculture. Within these categories, economic geography issues are discussed only marginally. These categories have a different focus.

The modularity class Economic Geography has 58 nodes and is therefore quite diverse. The most important keywords are city, space, network, globalization and innovation. Keywords related to concepts such as neoliberalism, agglomeration economy and knowledge economy are also widespread. Related WoS categories within the field are Economics and Political Science. Close connections are visible to Planning and Governance especially concerning the role of the state and concepts like city-region or metropolitan region and to a lesser degree to Migration and Mobility (Figure 1.3). The size of the nodes in Figure 1.3 represents the degree centrality, meaning the number of ties the node has, i.e. the number of relations between categories and keywords (see Newman, 2010). Therefore, a node (keyword or WoS category) with high degree centrality has many connections in the network. It connects contribution with similar ideas or approaches, thus indicating high importance within the network (Popescu et al., 2014). The keywords with the highest degree are urbanization (36), landscape (34) and urban sprawl (33). Those are often referring to the threat the growth of cities to the rural hinterland. In addition.

Table 1.1 Characteristics of calculated research fields concerning rural-urban linkages. 1900-2019. Keywords are ordered by degree; topic examples are based on manual inspection of papers

Research fields

Most frequent keywords

Topics (examples)

Rural-urban relations


Urban; migration; location; employment; suburbanization; gender; gentrification

Suburbanization effects; demographical and social aspects of migrants; gated communities; segregation

Unidirectional flows, either rural to urban or vice versa

Mobility and Transport

Impact; accessibility; mobility; transport; distance; travel; commuting

Flows of people and goods; commuting; means of transport; tourism; infrastructure; logistics; modelling of travel time;

Bidirectional; diverse; strong dependencies between categories

Environmental Impacts and Ecosystem Services

GI; dynamics; fragmentation; landscape; biodiversity; vegetation

Green infrastructure; biodiversity studies; effects of urban sprawl on soils, water, habitats etc.; conservation;

City is a threat for the rural ecology; rural areas as green space for urban areas; link as a means of strengthening human health and ecosystems

Planning and Governance

Metropolitan area; governance; city-region: sustainable development;

neighbourhood; urban planning; regional planning

Housing; planning concepts; environmental justice; energy planning;

competitiveness of regions; new spaces of governance

Bidirectional; main question on how to include urban and rural in planning and governance



Peri-urban; peri-urban management; sustainability; strategy; fringe; ecosystem services

Sustainable development of peri-urban areas; livelihoods; inequality; peri-urban forest management; settlement density; pressure on land;

Focus on processes and phenomena in the spatial category

Land Use and Land Cover


Land use; pattern; growth; model; urban sprawl; land-use change; remote sensing


classification and modelling of land-use changes with regard to urbanization (understood as settlement expansion)

Unidirectional; focus on how urban processes effect rural areas

Research fields

Most frequent keywords

Topics (examples)

Rural-urban relations

Economie Geography

City space; policy; network; globalization; state; innovation; economy; neoliberalism; FDI; urban agriculture; trade; technology, food

Comparison of rural and urban areas (e.g. labour, business types); location of firms and industries; institutional investments; resource use; dynamics of innovations; regional networks; production and consumption patterns

Studies concerning a rural/urban divide; network-related studies highlight the linkages for innovations, resource use etc. Location studies in “inbetween" spaces

constructed planning spaces are frequent, most prominently city-region (28) and metropolitan area (27). The importance of these concepts is further highlighted in the qualitative analysis below. Figure 1.3 also shows the most important WoS category in terms of degree centrality.

Qualitative analysis of contributions to rural-urban relations in economic geography

In this chapter, we present a qualitative analysis of the literature related to the modularity class we named Economic Geography, supplemented and refined with relevant monographs, book chapters and other literature from the

Co-word network of keywords and WoS categories concerning research on rural-urban linkages in geography, 1900-2019

Figure 1.3 Co-word network of keywords and WoS categories concerning research on rural-urban linkages in geography, 1900-2019. Node diameters are proportional to degree centrality. The cluster location results from the circle pack layout algorithm.

authors' experience. Basically, the literature in this category covers the key factors (e.g. innovation, entrepreneurship) agents (labour, enterprise, government), topics (knowledge economy, consumption), contexts (embedding, institutions, networks) and spatial relations (value chains, globalization, core/ periphery) that have already been investigated in general terms in economic geography (see Aoyama et al., 2011) but in relation to rural-urban interconnections and planning concepts.

According to the analysed literature, rural-urban linkages are the unilateral or reciprocal flows of goods and services, capital, people, resources and environmental impacts between rural and urban spaces. It is important here to differentiate between adjacent and distributed links. Adjacent connections are localized between cities and their direct rural hinterland. Environmental relations (waste, ecosystem services) are an important example for this. Distributed linkages are between, e.g. one city and many rural areas within a country or larger areas (Berdegue et al.. 2015). Examples are immigration flows from different rural areas in a specific country to a city abroad where social ties already exist. In addition, sectoral relations can connect several rural areas to a city based on agricultural products for an urban demand (Braun, 2007).

Early geographic research usually studied urban and rural areas together. Christaller and von Thiinen are conceptual examples that included rural-urban relationships (Woods and Heley, 2017). Von Tinmen's land-use model examined the spatial distribution of economic activity. He showed that land use is a function of distance, transport costs and yield. Different products are grown around a city in concentric rings. The urban demand determines the economic activity and thus the land use. According to van Leeuwen (2010), von Thiinen and others claimed that high-yield agricultural products as well as labour-intensive products are more likely to be produced near cities. Christaller’s central place theory classified settlements and localities based on their function for the surrounding countryside.

After the Second World War. geography began to split into many parts. The subfield urban geography began to emerge in the 1950s when a large degree of the global population began to move to urban areas (Anderson. 2017). Rural geography also developed in this phase, when the dominance of regional geography declined (Woods, 2005). During that time, the ideas of Lewis' dual sector model for economic development influenced the incorporation of linkages in planning and policies. He argued that long-term national economic growth and modernization require the transfer of surplus from the rural agricultural sector to the urban industry. This justified the exploitation and acquisition of rural resources, capital and labour by the cities and downgraded the “rural” to merely a supplier for urban development (Douglass, 2006). Advocates of polarization theory also integrated the linkages in this particular way and became significant in the 1950s. Gunnar Myrdal's spread-off or backwash effects in the process of circular cumulative causation are important in this context (P. Sai-wing Ho, 2004). Backwashing effects refer to the negative changes caused by a locality outside this locality. Spread-off includes the positive ones. Different patterns of migration, capital flows, trade or other social relations induce such effects and consolidate inequalities between urban centres and their hinterland. Cities actively organize and use rural areas to serve them. This does not happen through separation, but through the densification of connections. In practice, this has led to rural areas specializing in specific crops to meet urban demand and business interests. Natural consequences of this were brain drain and rural to urban migration. These ideas have been taken up in spatial planning as well as in development research (see e.g. Hirschman, 1958). With more and more emerging global value chains and increased forms of global capitalism, these processes were discussed under the dependency theory. Rural-urban interrelationships were considered in the sense of a global countryside of the Global South controlled by the power of the urban North side (Douglass, 2006).

In the 1960s, the urban focus in (economic) geography and planning did not change. Consequently, John Friedmann’s approach to a growth pole strategy (Friedmann. 1966) is also very much determined by what must be at the centre of regional or national development. Urban areas act as growth engines that devolve impulses for economic development to the hinterland (Semple et al.. 1972). Progress and growth of larger areas/regions depend on urban centres. Thus, the solution to polarization is the urbanization of the periphery; the rural developed by the city and city principles. Even though these approaches of modernization diffusion focused on city and countryside interactions, they mainly address settlement hierarchies with an urban bias (Lynch, 2009).

Until the 1990s, rural and urban areas were treated as separate entities. According to Douglass (2006), there were two opposite sides. Urban scholars saw rural space in terms of its utility to cities. They did not pay attention to rural and synergetic potentials. On the other hand, representatives of rural studies interpreted cities as a threat to rural society. They did not integrate the cities and their effects into their work.

However, with the economic recession in the 1980s, critics questioned the continuing urbanization, mostly its environmental impact. In addition, it became clear that the dualistic view of rural and urban neglects the daily life of rural and urban people. Rural-urban linkages play a very significant role here, be it for work, shopping, recreation or social ties (Dax, 1996; Feng and Patton, 2016; Tacoli. 2003). To a high degree, people’s livelihoods depend on these linkages. The identification and promotion of strong links between rural and urban areas are therefore important for poverty reduction and sustainable regional development. This requires, above all. an efficient infrastructure. Berdegue et al. (2015) argue that these factors, together with the emerging fields of livelihood studies (Chambers and Conway, 1992; Tacoli. 2003) and territorial development approaches (see also Tacoli. 1998), have contributed to the renewed interest in the linkages.

With the mapping of relationships between rural and urban came a renewed interest in what Woods and Heley (2017, p. 21) described as “constructed] territories for governance and policy delivery”. In fact, when analysing the modularity class of economic geography from the 1990s onwards, we found not only an increasingly diverse field, but many publications that only mention the connections in their abstracts or as part of planning instruments such as regional development instruments, metropolitan areas or cityregions (e.g. Jonas and Ward, 2007; Leetmaa et al.. 2009; Turok. 2004). The last-mentioned concept, city-region, has especially gained importance in the last years because of political and socio-economic reasons (see Rodriguez-Pose, 2008). Woods (2009) states that urban economic geographers have developed city-regions as a means of investigating the spatial organization of the economy. It can also be a model for economic development. Its focus is on the city. However, the concept extends the view to the adjacent rural areas. Proponents of this approach argue that this broadened view takes much better account of interdependencies between urban and rural areas, particularly in the labour market, shopping and leisure sectors (Parr, 2005). Rodriguez-Pose (2008) says that proponents are convinced that city-regions are entities are bound together by joint interest, even though the boundaries tend not to be fixed in time. They change as a result of different functional linkages between core and hinterland. The approach has also been criticized because it often neglects rural challenges and concerns while reproducing images of the city as an engine of economic growth. Etherington and Jones (2009) find that cityregions are not purely "positive”. In their research within the Sheffield City-Region labour market, they find that city-regions reinforce uneven development and socio-spatial inequalities. Rural areas outside metropolitan regions have often been disregarded in this context in terms of policy and future economic development (see Beel et al., 2019).

Various contributions come from industrial location studies and New Economic Geography. Location theory is one of the oldest branches of economic geography. Its roots go back to nineteenth-century Germany and Heinrich von Thiinen (1826). Alfred Weber (1909, 1958) is known for his generalized industrial location theory in order to identify the cheapest location for production. Marshall (1997 [orig. 1920]) was one of the first to investigate the relationship between location and economic performance and concluded that urbanization and the associated spatial concentration of economic activities can induce positive effects. New Economic Geography (see Krugman. 1993, 2011) scholars seek to explain various forms of economic concentration and agglomeration in different spaces. These approaches connect to early location theories by e.g. Christaller or Lösch, but also to the polarization theories (core/periphery model) work of Myrdal (see above). Since then, numerous articles have engaged with agglomeration and localization economies (see e.g. Aoyama et al., 2011).

Today, within this field, rural-urban differences are much more researched. For example, Hanson and Pratt (1992) study the geography of labour markets of three locations within a metropolitan area in the USA (for labour markets in Spain see Rodriguez et al. in this book). Henry (1999) discuss the spatial dimensions of rural labour markets in the Global South. Furthermore, planning instruments instead of linkages are discussed. Fallah et al. (2011), for example, use ideas of New Economic Geography to study wage inequality in metropolitan areas of the USA. Vinodrai (2006) focus on the labour market dynamics that underpin this circulation of creative workers within a cityregion. Spencer et al. (2010) assess the performance of different clusters within an urban and city-region environment. By drawing on Evolutionary Economic Geography thinking (see Boschma and Frenken. 2011; Boschma and Lambooy, 1999), Potter and Watts (2011) study the life cycle of agglomerations in a city-region as well.

More important within the context of rural-urban linkages in location studies are small and medium-sized towns. Since the 1950s they have been discussed scientifically, with perspectives of positive, negative and medium impact on society and the economy (Tacoli, 1998). Today, it is clear from the literature that these small and medium-sized towns need to be better integrated into regional development strategies, as they are important for challenges such as rural-urban migration and rural peripheralization (Mahzouni, 2013). For Dalal-Clayton and Bass (2007), small towns play a key role in economic development because they link the rural hinterland with domestic and international markets. They act as mediators between large cities and rural communities and thus foster employment and service dynamics (van Leeuwen. 2010; Woods and Heley, 2017).

In an increasingly urbanized world, the consumption and production of food is a major topic in economic geography and in related fields, e.g. with agri-food chains and alternative food networks (AFN), as well as urban agriculture (Goodman and Goodman, 2009; Marsden. 2017; Maye et al., 2007; Schermer, 2015; Tregear, 2011). Food relationships between rural areas and the cities have always been important. Exploring them requires a deeper understanding of economic, social and environmental processes and the different links between urban, peri-urban and rural areas (Lynch, 2009). The major problem in terms of sustainable development concerns commodity and value chains that are dis-embedded from the local context. Increased globalization processes have lengthened the agri-food chain, thus making it difficult to trace by consumers. The place of production is far away from the place of consumption. With the turn to food quality and embeddedness, alternative approaches of food provision and consumption have been of interest for researchers. The so-called “quality turn” was triggered by several concerns of consumers concerning health and food security, the environmental impact of global and industrialized food systems and of animal welfare, as well as farmers’ responses to those concerns (Winter, 2003). Thus, organic production, local/regional brands and quality assessments fostering a return to embedded food systems with re-spatialized and re-socialized production, distribution and consumption of food are main bodies of work concerning AFN.

They are characterized by shortened distances between consumer and producer, production forms that are in contrast to large scale agri-business, the inclusion of environmental, social and alternative economic dimensions within the food system and by new forms of linkages for the purchase of food like food cooperatives, community-supported agriculture or farmers" markets (Goodman and Goodman. 2009; Jarosz, 2008). Urbanization processes that induce rural restructuring processes can increase the demand for seasonal, organic and local produce and the development of small farms in close proximity to the cities. Following Goodman (2004), this also leads to opportunities for rural development. The urban creative-food economy - special, ethnic and organic SMEs that produce and raise demand for local, fresh, ethnic and fusion cuisine - appear to be particularly important concerning the linkages between urban and rural (see e.g. the craft beer contribution of Reid et al. in this book). Donald and Blay-Palmer (2006) found several connections based on the creative food economy that improved the social inclusion of or the potential for innovation in both spatial categories. Traditional rural practices applied in urban areas such as urban and peri-urban agriculture (food production and animal husbandry on urban and peri-urban land) complement food-related studies on rural-urban links in economic geography (Duvernoy et al., 2018; Lynch, 2009; Rigg, 1998).

Recent approaches acknowledge the role of linkages for rural and urban entrepreneurs (e.g. Mayer et al., 2016). The relationship between entrepreneurship and place has traditionally been studied from a rural or urban perspective (e.g. Acs et al., 2011; Pato and Teixeira, 2016). However, several studies have shown that with these linkages rural entrepreneurs achieve access to knowledge and markets, while urban entrepreneurs profit from close resources and value chains. Hjalager (2017) analyses 11 rural-urban business partnerships in Denmark. She finds a variety of tangible and intangible flows between the rural and urban areas (e.g. knowledge, capital, amenities, market access, and products) that result in dissolving spatial hierarchies. Rural actors, therefore, tend to be as important as rural ones in business partnerships. Shortened value chains, supplementary products and spin-off's from these partnerships hereby increase the capacity for change in the regions. To Dubois et al. (2012) business partnerships in a "network economy” connect urban and rural SMEs even at a national and international level. SMEs are therefore not strictly dependent on geographical proximity and agglomerative accumulations, which in neoliberal growth strategies are the basic prerequisite for business success and marginalize the "rural” (see Beel et al., 2019). The studies on entrepreneurship, innovation and business models also question binary thinking about rural and urban areas. The view that rural areas are not innovative has been challenged lately (Eder, 2018; Esparcia, 2014). Social innovations (Bosworth et al., 2016; Neumeier, 2017), sustainable food systems (Blay-Palmer and Donald, 2006; Maye et al., 2007) or even a new rural creative industry (Herslund, 2012) draw attention to the fact that rural actors, organizations and practices can be as important as urban ones. To some degree, well-educated urban residents that migrate to rural and peri-urban areas and start new businesses foster this improved competitiveness. These actors develop “regional lifestyle businesses” (Herslund, 2012, p. 235) by combining urban customers and services for the regional market. However, Meccheri and Pelloni (2007) argue that these rural entrepreneurs need assistance because of certain impediments. Networks and intermediary organizations that connect them with urban actors, thus, play a significant role for regional development (Kratzer and Ammering, 2019).

Contributions to this volume

The contributions in this book critically engage with different concepts and approaches (e.g. transition, transformation, agri-food sustainability, "smart") of development (Maye, Chapter 2; Coy et al., Chapter 3; Winder and Hofmann, Chapter 4; Vladova and Knieling, Chapter 11), the impact of rural-urban linkages (e.g. agro-food-networks; consumer-producer-relations; see Reid et al.. Chapter 8; Kozaman and Serkin. Chapter 9; Hossain et al.. Chapter 10) as well as potentially remaining differences (Galama and van Leeuwen, Chapter 5; Rodriguez et al.. Chapter 6; Pachura, Chapter 7). By using governance perspectives, the contributions assess instruments and initiatives that foster or hinder the relationships (Yavuz and Oncuer, Chapter 12) as well as financial flows such as subsidies, meant to reduce inequalities (Wolski and Wojcik, Chapter 13).

Parris and Kates (2003) argue that sustainability itself is a social decision about what should be developed, what should be preserved and for how long. Sustainability transitions or sustainable development through rural-urban linkages is not something that can be transferred globally based on theoretical considerations only. Like any transition to sustainability, they are the result of capacities, power relations and struggles, as well as agency (Gibbs, 2009). Hansen and Coenen (2015) and Murphy (2015) have argued that the geographical context has so far been insufficiently included in transitional studies. Ultimately, sustainability transitions take place at specific locations and regions. Of course, large-scale strategies must address different levels, e.g. with global guidelines and conventions. Nevertheless, concrete changes at the local level are also important. Despite all the influences of globalization, these levels remain important both for the everyday lives of the actors and for the concrete conditions for production and consumption. As Truffer and Coenen (2012) and state, ambitions to more sustainable forms of production and consumption should be analysed in a regional context.

This collection of research articles therefore is specifically designed to incorporate different spatial and geographical contexts and research perspectives within the guiding framework of rural-urban linkages. As such, contributions include case studies from the Global North and the Global South. With the Global North and South, Europe (Poland, the Netherland, Great Britain. Turkey), Asia (Bangladesh, Turkey), North (USA) and South

America (Brazil) as well as Oceania (New Zealand) this book also covers contributions from all over the world. In additions, the volume comprises chapters that vary greatly in methodological and empirical approaches that display the importance of rural-urban linkages.

The book is structured as follows:

  • • Part A comprises theoretical and conceptual findings on rural-urban linkages and their contribution to transition/transformation processes. Empirical work completed within three different case studies (New Zealand. Brazil and UK), covers different themes of rural-urban linkages and their relationships to a “sustainability transition” agenda. Maye was one of the keynote speakers at the conference. His chapter is based on this speech and discusses agri-food sustainability transitions. Coy et al. describe the role of rural-urban relations in the context of agribusiness in Brazil. The Christchurch earthquake of 2011 is at the centre of attention in the contribution of Winder and Hoffmann. The authors investigate the recovery process with the UN Habitat initiative SDG 11 declaration of the significance of rural-urban linkages within disaster research in focus. Challenges concerning resilience, transitions and economic geography are derived from that.
  • • Although the publication focuses on rural-urban linkages, Part B analyses still existing differences between the rural and the urban, to contribute to a better understanding of existing divergences. Galama and Leeuwen analyse different behaviour in online shopping between people living in urban, intermediate and rural regions. Another contribution (Rodriguez, Camacho and Molina) evaluates urban and rural labour markets over the recovery period 2014-2018 in Andalusia. As a final contribution to this part, Pachura identifies different space dimensions and analyses their role for business activities in Poland.
  • • Part C shows three different case studies concerning the impact of rural-urban linkages. Alternative food networks with new relations between producers and consumers are an emerging phenomenon in the peri-urban area of Istanbul. In the process, urban actors become increasingly connected with the hinterland and the periphery. Kozaman's contribution studies the different formations that have been built so far. Reid et al. put their focus on the fast-growing craft beer sector and new tendencies in hop growing in the US. Because of recent developments in craft beer, new linkages between rural and urban have emerged. Additionally, those linkages have changed the appearance of the different areas. In Bangladesh. Hossain et al. explore the role of rural-urban linkages in local economic development. They compare two different rural settlements and find a variety of flows that stimulate the development of the settlements in different ways.
  • • New forms of governance are central to rural-urban linkages. Part D consists of a number of critical analyses of governance initiatives. All contributions have in common that they challenge current ways of decision-making processes and responses. A German investigation by Vla-dova and Knieling engages with rural-urban cooperation and partnerships for innovations in the “Smart Region" of Hamburg. A case study from Turkey (Yavuz and Oncuer) encapsulates how governance in rural tourism introduces sustainability aspects into the development of secondary residential areas. Wolski and Wojcik introduce the connection between different definitions and concepts of the urban and the rural in Poland and how the discourse of rural beneficiaries of EU subsidies is disconnected from the local environment.


The aim of this introduction was to delineate the geographical contributions concerning rural-urban linkages, especially in economic geography. We surveyed the previous geographical research on rural-urban linkages and discussed the definitions, the new context, which requires the increased attention and debate in this book and, in quantitative and qualitative terms, the different approaches in economic geography. One insight of this research journey is that the characteristics and boundaries have become blurred over time. We find typically urban phenomena in rural environments and vice versa. Furthermore, the linkages between the categories have tightened in multiple ways.

The number of publications and citations has increased since the Rio conference in 1992, indicating an increased awareness and knowledge about the subject. However, a detailed qualitative literature search revealed that the interrelationships are not at the centre of economic geography research. Frequently, the “in-between” and governance spaces merely form the framework in which research takes place and where the rural and urban influences are very pronounced. It also draws attention to the view that in dealing with rural-urban linkages, spaces are not absolute but social constructions to manage certain challenges.


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