I have recently acquired a copy of the book Agrarianism in American Literature, edited by M. Thomas Inge. Though I have not read much of this book yet, I have skimmed it and it looks good. I found the introduction to be particularly insightful where, in an attempt to define the word “agrarian,” the editor introduces some “thoughts which are generally to be understood as “agrarian.” I think you will appreciate these Agrarian Thoughts:
1. The cultivation of the soil, the mother of all arts, has within it a positive spiritual good and instills in the cultivator such virtues as honor, manliness, self-reliance, courage, moral integrity, and hospitality. These folllow from his direct contact with physical nature, the medium through which God is directly revealed and which serves to remind man of his finite nature and dependence on God. It is an occupation singularly blessed by God, since He was the first husbandman, having wrought order and creation out of confusion and chaos, and it is the first employment ordained by Him of Adam, the first man.
2. Only farming offers complete independence and self-sufficiency, because regardless of the state of the national economy (provided the farmer and not the bank owns his land), his basic needs of food and shelter are provided through his cooperative relationship with nature. The standard by which an economic system is judged is not how much wealth or prosperity it produces, but how effectively it encourages freedom, individuality, and morality.
3. The farmer 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. His life is harmonious, orderly, and whole, and counteracts tendencies in modern society toward abstraction, fragmentation, and alienation.
4. Industry, capitalism, and technology, and the thriving metropolises they have created, are often destructive of independence and dignity, and encourage corruption, vice, and weakness.
5. Agricultural communities, where the brotherhoods of labor and cooperation bring about increased understanding, provide a potential model for an ideal social order.
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