Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department / School

Rural Sociology


This research has a three-fold purpose: first, to assess the presence, or lack thereof, of alienation in a sample from the rural Farm population; second, to assess the role of the church in helping reduce feelings of alienation; and third, to determine the extent to which church membership and participation enhances personal empowerment and transformative action. The following questions are addressed in the study: 1. Is there evidence of alienation in this rural farm population? 2. If so, who are alienated? 3. Is alienation associated with church membership? 4. Is church membership associated with transformative action? 5. How are alienation and transformative action related? Berger and Neuhaus' work on mediating institutions serves as the abstract theoretical framework of the research. Seeman's conceptualization of alienation as powerlessness, meaninglessness, social isolation, self-estrangement, and normlessness is applied and incorporated into this framework. Alienation and church membership are independently examined to determine the relationship of each to transformative action. The data for the study are collected through intensive interview and participant observation. A "methodological mix" - statistical and qualitative - is used in analyzing the data. The major findings are as follows: Some alienation is observed among rural farm population. Farmers with church membership give less evidence of alienation than farmers with no church membership. Farmers with church membership tend to participate less in community organizations and activities than farmers with no church membership. Farmers whose economic well-being is stable tend to be less involved in community organizations than farmers whose economic well-being is either unstable or critical. Farmers with church membership are more likely to give positive spontaneous evidence of transformative action than farmers with no church membership. Regardless of church membership, farmers who discuss farm issues more frequently with their spouses are seen as less likely to be alienated than farmers who discuss less frequently. Finally, the chances for quarreling increase as farmer economic well-being decreases.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Country life -- Religious aspects
Church group work
Rural churches -- Social aspects
Agriculture -- Religious aspects -- Christianity

Number of Pages



South Dakota State University


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