Habitat maintenance and local economic ethics in rural Atlantic Canada

Inspired by Jane Jacobs’s writing on “habitat maintenance,” this paper seeks to identify the ethics that sometimes compel rural residents to act in ways that preserve their communities in the long run, despite short‐term incentives to do otherwise. Data from focus groups in four rural Atlantic Canadian communities suggest shared ethics around entrepreneurship, market competition, buying local, and subsistence, some of which underlie the rural practices and perspectives that appear, to some outsiders, as irrational and “backwards.” Understanding these ethics and the practices they incite as components of habitat maintenance—and judging them by their situated pragmatism rather than their fit with the placeless ideologies of growth‐centric global capitalism and competitiveness—highlights their rationality and utility. Findings could help direct discussions of rural economic development toward notions of prosperity, sustainability, and economy that fit better with rural realities.

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