Projects / Programmes source: ARIS

Strategy for an urban-rural partnership in Slovenia

Research activity

Code Science Field Subfield
5.03.00  Social sciences  Sociology   

Code Science Field
S240  Social sciences  Town and country planning 
rural development, transfomation of rural areas, urban-rural partnership, sustainable development, spatial system of the Republic of Slovenia, spatial sociology, dehierarhisation of the spatial system, quality of life, new localism, informatisation of rural area, teleworking, diversity and preservation of the natural and cultural heritage, suburbanisation
Evaluation (rules)
source: COBISS
Researchers (5)
no. Code Name and surname Research area Role Period No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  12652  PhD Marjan Hočevar  Sociology  Researcher  2007 - 2010  309 
2.  09735  PhD Drago Kos  Sociology  Head  2007 - 2010  562 
3.  15319  PhD Franc Trček  Sociology  Researcher  2007 - 2010  333 
4.  22511  PhD Matjaž Uršič  Sociology  Researcher  2007 - 2010  343 
5.  19139  Janja Zvonar    Technical associate  2008 
Organisations (1)
no. Code Research organisation City Registration number No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  0582  University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Social Sciences  Ljubljana  1626957  40,365 
Space is an undervalued development resource in Slovenia and this probably results from the fact that the physical qualities of the natural space have been taken for granted in the past, as well as from certain recent circumstances which contributed to the development of a suboptimal settlement system. As space is not just an economic category, but also a physical, social, and cultural category, to understand and consider these dimensions in spatial interventions makes it possible to achieve surplus development potentials. And they also help us to understand very persistent spatial antagonisms, which have been causing unproductive rivalries and even conflicts in connection with development. A paradigmatic example is the urban-rural antagonism which seems now to change in developed (postmodern) societies, where new relations and opportunities emerge. It is however of crucial importance to create the conditions for a transformation of this antagonism into a synergetic urban-rural partnership. That is the key starting-point of our research. We will use the theoretical and empirical research repertoire of spatial sociology to establish whether Slovenia has already developed the beginnings for such a new partnership, and what should be done to make good use of this opportunity. Based on the preliminary research carried out to date, we assume that Slovenia – precisely because of its spatial and development characteristics - has favourable opportunities for a synergy of urban and rural areas. Based on findings about long-term socio-spatial processes, our basic research premise is that in order to achieve new paradigms of socio-spatial development a transition is necessary from the existing hierarchic spatial system, based on a logic of central places, to a non-hierarchic network spatial system of an urban-rural partnership. An analysis of the economic, social, and cultural links between the town and countryside will provide the basis for shaping a spatial development policy that will encourage the origin of synergetic “network” connections between the towns and the countryside. The spatial-sociological analysis of built structures will be aimed at searching for undervalued development potentials in Slovenia. We presume that legitimate integrations of the settlement system can contribute to a postmodern development shift. In addition to analysing general trends, the research will perform a detailed analysis of three selected rural environments and then estimate what their “hidden knowledge” is and what their development shortcomings are; these are the factors which either enable or disable them from being equally incorporated in the new network model of spatial development. The basic objective of the research project is to answer the question how to develop an urban-rural partnership that will make optimum use of the diversity and richness of spatial qualities (the natural and cultural heritage) for sustainable development, and for a sustainable improvement of the quality of life in Slovenia.
Significance for science
Some years ago, sociological circles generally accepted the thesis that that sociology or sociological epistemology was going through a crisis. Many saw the solution in the discipline’s opening up to and linking with other social, humanist, and even natural sciences (Wallerstein, 2000). From its beginnings, spatial and environmental sociology was very widely conceived and strongly connected with border and related social and spatial disciplines. Research results have indicated that the chosen direction is highly promising from the viewpoint of methodology. However, in spite of the explicit, in-principle orientation of research policies, the research environment and the systemic conditions for research do not actually support this optimism. The reasons are manifold and among the most important ones are e.g. the totally unproductive competence disputes between the different disciplines. Postmodern fragmentation, highlighting the need for integrating various specialist disciplinary approaches, is potentially easier to overcome in environments where personal communication between diverse specialists still exists. Seen from this aspect, an important result of the research work will be the operational structuring of the problem field in a way that will enable to connect cognitive, theoretical and ambitious research with the applicative aspects of the researched issue. Because of the integrative nature of spatial sociology, its new findings are also of importance to the development of related scientific disciplines dealing with the field of spatial development (urbanism, architecture, geography, regional studies, social science informatics, public administration), and at the same time an advantage of such an approach is the tendency towards applicative scientific findings at different levels of the spatial organisation of society. The emphasis on the analysis of developmentally significant examples of new phenomena of temporal-spatial and socio-spatial organisation in the form of pilot projects reduces the gap between the scientific theoretical level and practical, applicative research activities. Even though interdisciplinary cooperation in development projects still lags behind the actual needs, we nevertheless find that it has improved at least in some areas (e.g. energy, waste management, environment protection in the narrow sense. This is also one of the possible ways of overcoming the declining confidence in the credibility of scientific assessments and findings, which has become very pronounced in some areas. It is obvious that in postmodern circumstances scientific rationality and logic are longer as persuasive as they used to be. This is particularly true of the environment, where new “postmodern” ideas neglect the rationality rooted in the tradition of the Western Enlightenment. From the perspective of social pragmatics, it is highly problematic that even sensible and technology well-considered projects run into legitimation difficulties. The reason for this condition is paradoxically in part a consequence of modernist reflexivity. The solutions for numerous development problems increasingly depend on the public opinion, i.e. on their legitimacy rather than on technical options. Cooperation and consultation with affected groups has become inevitable, and this is often the only credible way to achieve social acceptance for a specific project. This is particularly true of infrastructure projects: even when they undoubtedly contribute to the quality of life of all or least many involved people, most of them nevertheless reject the intervention. The contribution of sociology is very important in these cases. A great portion of sociological research and activities is actually aimed at investigating the achieved level of reflexivity in contemporary and recent societies, with the intention of further improving reflexivity at the individual and institutional levels.
Significance for the country
Researching specific modernisation deficit, we try to answer the question whether this specific feature may be turned into a development opportunity for Slovenia. The comparatively lower level of differentiation between the social subsystems, e.g. scientific disciplines, showed to be an advantage in the course of the development of spatial sociology. Any consensus on the method(s) to achieve the kind of complex social objective sustainable development is soon starts to unravel, in particular because of the huge legitimising difficulties in the operationalisation of implicitly necessary, but quite radical changes. The data gathered and processed through research show that rational social legitimising of interventions in space and the environment is an very demanding enterprise in Slovenia. We therefore paid particular attention in planning the research to three methods of legitimising sustainable development: 1) authority (the state), 2) negotiations (the market), 3) argumentation (participation of civil society). In the present Slovene conditions, the emphasis on legitimising procedures is historically vindicated. Creating the social conditions required to legitimise procedures is actually the most important condition for optimising spatial development and environment protection in Slovenia. Due to the intensive, increasingly global social and, last but not least, economic processes, it is very important to clarify the criteria and practically implement assessments that will serve as the basis for considering whether concrete spatial projects harmonize with sustainable development. The high degree of vulnerability of the environment in Slovenia, its specific spatial culture, and equally specific historical heritage, constitute severe obstacles to the introduction of participative methods of legitimising when trying to achieve the research objective. The research results which enable us to assess the degree of difficulty to legitimise chosen development variants, are therefore directly applicable to planning and directing spatial development, the urgent rehabilitation of degraded areas, environment protection, and achieving a higher quality of living in Slovenia. Are key research theme are therefore the legitimising conditions required to overcome the “urban deficit” as a fundamental characteristic of Slovenia’s spatial and social development. Researching contemporary spatial identities and value orientations of individuals and groups in this context amounts to providing an adequate database infrastructure. The research results confirm that the preservation of traditional local-regional identities, along with simultaneous support to emerging new spatial identities, is in harmony with the trends of supra-national integration. Such a first sight incompatible practises create the conditions for implementing sustainable development of space, the environment, and nature. As part of the research programme, we carried out a range of concrete empirical researches of space and the environment in Slovenia. We researched spatial mobility, living or housing preferences, the environmental aspects of spatial development, the complementary effects of development and access to the information infrastructure, participative practices in the renovation of degraded areas, the difficulties related to the spatial location of risk technologies, and the postmodern relations between urban and rural spaces. The research into Slovenia’s spatial, traffic problems was conceived comparatively through our participation in a European project of researching sustainable urban mobility.
Most important scientific results Annual report 2008, 2009, final report, complete report on dLib.si
Most important socioeconomically and culturally relevant results Annual report 2008, 2009, final report, complete report on dLib.si
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