Norwegian regional policies emphasise geography and demography more than structural factors such as business development, unemployment or income conditions, which are more important in the rest of Europe. The background for the particular Norwegian case is revealed in this article, through a discourse analysis of selected political and academic texts. During the 1960s a rural movement surfaced, articulating demands on behalf of the rural population. The mismatch between the rural mode of living and the government policy was revealed, mainly through the work of the sociologist Ottar Brox. This new approach to rurality, where an alternative modernisation scenario was introduced, formed the academic and political basis for claiming better protection of rural communities against the hegemonic strategy for modernisation. However, the articulations of this movement triggered other symbolic issues in Norway in the radical 1970s and policies came to be about much more than rural communities and particular rural interests. Working against centralisation became synonymous with working to preserve Norwegian culture and nature. In this article the widespread and continued support for a distributed settlement pattern is explained on the assumption that meaning springs from the representation of rurality to the represented rural condition, more than the other way around.