The physical and social conditions of urban and rural life are different. Consequently there are differences in the .personality and behavior of urban and rural people. These differences have provided endless source material for the novelist and the playwright and continue to interest the sociologist

Traditional Characteristics of Rural Life

Rural telecommutes are not all alike. Edwards [1959) distinguishes at least five types of rural communities; the town-country community with farms scattered about village center; the open-country community without any
village center; the village community, whose sub types include the fishing village, the mining village, and the mill village; the line . village, with farm homes strung along the road at the ends of long, narrator farms; and the plantation. Yet certain characteristics are common to nearly all kinds of rural communities. ISOLATION. Perhaps the most conspicuous feature of American rural We in times past was its isolation. Throughout much of the
, world, rural people are clustered into small villages, within walking distance of the surrounding farmland. In the United States, the isolated homestead became the usual pattern of rural settlement, a pattern that was productively more efficient but socially isolating. Not only was the local group isolated from  other groups, but each family was isolatedfrom other families. With a thinly scattered population, personal contacts were few. Each contact involved the perception of an individual as a complete person not simply as a functionary. There “Yere few impersonal contacts in rural societies-no anonymous bus drivers, ticket sellers, grocery clerks, or police officers. Nearly everY contact was with an acquaintance who was treated not only in terms of functional role but also in terms of total personality and all’the many facets of his or her status in the community.
The hospitality pattern of the American. frontier, wherein the traveler was welcome to spend the night at almost any farmhouse, was a practical response both to frontier needs-where else would the traveler stay?- and to frontier loneliness, The traveler brought news, contact with the outside world, and break in monotony. It is, therefore, no accident that the hospitality pattern delve ped wherever Europeans planted frontier settlements around the world [Leyburn, 1935). Even today this hospitality pattern survives under conditions of extreme isolation. On the Alaska Highway the mores of the region require one to offer assistance to any stranded  motorist. The hospitality pattern is a perfect illustration of how customs and mores arisein response to social needs, and change are these needs change. HOMOGENEITY. Taken as a whole, American settlers were a quite heterogeneous lot. But within a given locality, the settlers were likely
to be quite homogeneous in ethnic and cultural background. They generally followed earlier migrants from their home communities, so that the settlers from a particular country and district clustered together. This
homogeneity, together with the comparative isolation of settlements from one another, helped to encourage the conservatism, traditionalism, and ethnocentrism of American rural communities.

FARlMING. Nearly all were farmers or hired hands, while even the minister, doctor, teacher, storekeeper, and blacksmith were deeply involved in an agricultural way of life. All faced common problems, performed common tasks, and shared a common helplessness before
the awesome natural forces which lie beyond human control. SUBSISTENCE ECONOMY. The traditional American homestead tried to produce nearly
everything it consumed. The bulging smokehouse, the well-stocked fruit cellar, and the shelves sagging with home-canned goods were sources of pride to the farm family. In  rapidly expanding economy with a chronic shortage of money and credit, a subsistence and barter economy was a socially useful adaptation. Thrift was an honored value, and conspicuous consumption was seen as an urban vice. A farm couple’s status was measured by their lands, herds, barns, crops, and the inheritance they could pass on to their children-all highly visible, thus making conspicuous consumption unnecessary as symbols of success.
Living within a subsistence rather than a market economy, rural people were inclined  to be suspicious of intellectualize and “book learning.” Farmers were most likely to see a piece of paper when some “city slicker” was trying to do them out of something. Distrust of city people and disapproval of urban life were)'{edictable rural attitudes. These are some of the influences which shaped American rural personality. Although we have little empirical evidence for earlier periods, it is likely that the popular image of “rural Americans as hospitable and cooperative, conservative, hard-working and thrifty,ethnocentric and intolerant was probably correct. Such characteristics were products of the physical and social conditions of American rural life until the twentieth century. Today these conditions have greatly changed, and so has the social behavior of rural people.

Posted on September 4, 2014 in THE CHANGING COMMUNITY

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