Community, Culture, and Economic Development

The Social Roots of Local Action

By Meredith Ramsay

Series: SUNY series, Democracy in American Politics
Paperback : 9780791427507, 184 pages, November 1995
Hardcover : 9780791427491, 184 pages, November 1995

Table of contents

List of Figures



1. Introduction

2. Theoretical Frameworks

3. A History of Somerset County

4. Princess Anne, 1986-1991

5. Crisfield, 1986-1991

6. Conclusion




A comparative study of economic development policy, and its relationship with local power structures and cultural and social relations, in two Maryland towns that have rejected development.


This book questions the conventional wisdom in studies of local economic development that communities will invariably pursue outside investment as a way of increasing land values and creating jobs and opportunities. Meredith Ramsay demonstrates how two towns in Maryland's poorest county have routinely rejected economic development, and in a further challenge to the dominant paradigm, she shows that these rejections were "rational": Opposition to economic development was a reasonable means of protecting and achieving community values. Contrary to the market paradigm, Ramsay shows how the goals of economic policy are ultimately derived from cultural values and ways of life. By showing how the insights of cultural studies can be integrated with political economy, this book reveals the contextual character of economic rationality and, at the same time, illustrates how nonmaterial values can guide economic policymaking.

Meredith Ramsay is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.


"This is a fascinating and sophisticated account of rural politics that is much more than anecdotal. The book is unique in applying theories developed in the study of urban policy (market, growth machine, regime) to the politics of rural places. The analysis rings true; it is both theoretically interesting and factually revealing. It may be the best account of small-town politics since the classic Small Town in Mass Society, written about 35 years ago by Vidich and Bensman. " — Alvin D. Sokolow, University of California, Davis

"On rare occasions a book has such depth of insight and freshness of presentation that it breaks down conventional distinctions among facts, values, and theory. Meredith Ramsay's account of two rural communities is such a study. It incorporates all three in a seamless account. This is a book about everyday people engaged in real struggles, and it never loses sight of the context in which they operate. Ramsay makes social and historical embeddedness come alive and inform in a way that few authors can. " — Clarence Stone, University of Maryland