Sustainability and rural communities in the age of globalization: Can we learn our way out?
This thesis is an investigation of sustainability and rural communities in the age of globalization. It begins by outlining the economic, political, social, environmental, gender-based and cultural impacts of corporate globalization on rural communities. This thesis then builds a theoretical model, using concepts from three theorists: Antonio Gramsci's concept of hegemony, Ju?rgen Habermas' concept of communicative action and John McMurtry's concept of life values. Using this model, it analyzes current understandings of sustainability in the literature and finds them inadequate to deal with the devastating impacts of corporate globalization on rural communities. Moving from theory to metatheory, it investigates the ability of the theoretical model to contribute to a critical understanding of sustainability. Then using the theoretical model as a foundation, this thesis develops a critical understanding of sustainability as a set of structures and processes that build the civil commons. The civil commons is society's organized and community-funded capacity to provide universally accessible resources that maintain or increase the well-being of individuals and communities. Universal health care, parks, public education, old age pensions and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms are all examples of the conscious and co-operative human agency of the civil commons in Canada. Given this critical understanding of sustainability, this thesis then asks whether we can learn our way out of our current unsustainable state and learn our way into sustainability. It argues that we can, proposing a new concept called sustainable learning, based on the theoretical model and grounded in emancipatory learning, social learning and transformative learning. This thesis then puts forward a new research agenda, applying the critical understanding of sustainability to two familiar concepts: sustainable development and sustainable rural communities. It concludes with a new concept, sustainable globalization, based on a critical understanding of sustainability.