In recent decades, the responsibility for initiating regeneration programmes has been placed firmly in the hands of rural communities, with the rationale being that local people are best placed to know their own problems and, consequently, to develop their own solutions. Despite the popularity of this approach, the self-help approach has its own problems and can be seen as an attempt by governments to reduce public spending. This book provides a critical account of the discourses and practices of self-help in contemporary rural development policies of Australia and other western nations. Although it examines the problems of the self-help approach, it moves beyond a straightforward exposition of the impediments to self-help. Instead, taking a Foucauldian governmentality perspective, it puts forward a theoretical analysis of the self-help concept, assessing it as a means of governing rural development in an advanced liberal manner. It argues that self-help should not be regarded as either the empowerment or the abandonment of rural citizens by a shrinking state, but rather the application of new ways of thinking about and acting upon rural development.
'In an era where governments, the world over, are seeking to "empower" citizens and to promote local leadership, there is an urgent need for a critical assessment of these new and emerging forms of community-based governance and their impacts. Drawing upon sociological theory, this book is the first to explore the competing discourses of self help in rural and regional areas. It is a highly original account, written with clarity and intelligence, producing one of the most revealing works on rural communities to have been published in the last decade. It is invaluable reading for all who wish to understand the dynamics of contemporary rural change.' Geoffrey Lawrence, University of Queensland, Australia 'Self-help is becoming a mantra in rural development policy and practice across the western world. This incisive and detailed examination of the rhetoric and reality of rural development in Australia shows how self-help is a product of the neoliberal state and raises important questions about how rural disadvantage might be tackled in future.' Neil Ward, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, UK