Faculty Sponsor

Robin Best


Is the familiar urban-rural political divide a universal phenomenon, or is it conditional on institutional, cultural, or historical factors? In places where such a divide does exist, does it always manifest as a contest between progressive urban centers and conservative rural areas, or is this polarity sometimes reversed? Drawing on the insights of political scientists, sociologists, and historians, a review of the literature suggests resilient patterns of political geography that have their roots in the cleavage formation processes of the 19th and early 20th centuries. In particular, the legacy of agrarian politics and patterns of land tenure during this critical period play an important (yet often overlooked) role in the degree and character of the urban-rural political continuum. Generally speaking, in countries where the expansion of suffrage empowered peasant smallholders who had not been co-opted by anti-statist or traditionalist factions, leftist (or at least class-conscious) agrarian movements paved the way for an unusually high degree of rural left-wing and centrist party support in the modern era.