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Agrarianism

From Academic Kids

Agrarianism is a social and political philosophy.

In his introduction to his 1969 book Agrarianism in American Literature, M. Thomas Inge defines "agrarianism" by the following basic tenets:

  • Cultivation of the soil "has within it a positive spiritual good" and from it the cultivator acquires the virtues of "honor, manliness, self-reliance, courage, moral integrity, and hospitality." These result from a direct contact with nature, and through nature a closer relationship to God. The agrarian is blessed in that he follows the example of God in creating order out of chaos.
  • Farming is the sole occupation which offers total independence and self-sufficiency.
  • The farmer has a solid, stable position in the world order. He "has a sense of identity, a sense of historical and religious tradition, a feeling of belonging to a concrete family, place, and region, which are psychologically and culturally beneficial." The harmony of his life checks the encroachments of a fragmented, alienated modern society.
  • Urban life, capitalism, and technology destroy independence and dignity while fostering vice and weakness.
  • The agricultural community, with its fellowship of labor and cooperation is the model society.

Agrarianism is not identical with the back to the earth movement, but it can be helpful to think of it in those terms. The agrarian philosophy is not to get people to reject progress, but rather to concentrate on the fundamental goods of the earth, communities of limited economic and political scale, and simple living--even when this involves questioning the "progressive" character of some recent social and economic developments.

The name "agrarian" is properly applied to figures from Horace and Virgil through Thomas Jefferson, Transcendentals like Emerson and Thoreau, the Southern Agrarians movement of the 1920s and 1930s (also known as the Vanderbilt Agrarians) and present-day authors Wendell Berry, Alan Carlson, and Victor Davis Hanson.

In the 1910s and 1920s, agrarianism garnered significant popular attention, but was eclipsed in the industrial boom of the postwar period. It revived somewhat in conjunction with the 1960s environmentalist movement, and has been drawing an increasing number of adherents.

Recent agrarian thinkers are sometimes referred to as neo-Agrarian.

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