The voluntary sector and the state in rural towns and villages: co-existence, co-operation and competition
Gardner, Graham (2008)


by Dr Graham Gardner, FRSA, Aberystwyth University

This presentation will discuss the characteristics of relationships between the voluntary sector and the state in rural towns and villages. In the light of the ‘shadow state’ thesis and notions of ‘governmentality’, relationships between the voluntary sector and the state have tended to be characterised in asymmetric terms with the state seen as very much having the upper hand. Such characterisation, I will argue, because it is largely based on analyses of the state and the voluntary sector in urban areas, tends to overlook the importance of the rural context. In small towns and villages, relationships between voluntary sector organisations and the state are far more complex than theories of the shadow state or governmentality allow. Most importantly, at the scale of the small town and village, the state and the voluntary sector tend to be highly interdependent. Consequently, their relationships, whether framed in terms of institutions or individuals, tend to be close, mutually beneficial and non-hierarchical. I will go on to argue, however, that these relationships have often come under strain as central government has sought to increasingly use voluntary organisations as vehicles for citizen engagement and democratic renewal. The presentation draws on empirical research into the voluntary sector and local councils undertaken over the last ten years.

Graham’s presentation is available here (Powerpoint format).


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