Dateline: 7 December 2006
I see that Rick Saenz has already written about the book, Flee to the Fields: The Founding Fathers of the Catholic Land Movement over at his blog, Dry Creek Chronicles. So I suggest you go there and read what he has to say.
For my part, I will provide you with a few excerpts from the new introduction of the recently reprinted version of the book....
“The industrial regime, as Hilaire Belloc noted in the original preface to this book, has but one goal, and that is the accumulation of material wealth. To the orthodox Catholic, this all-consuming desire wrought terrible social consequences. Industrialism centralized production and thereby created a monopolistic economy under which millions of people had been forced (or seduced) from farm and village, to take up a barrack-like existence in burgeoning cities. The loss of property subsequently reduced most Englishmen to a state of economic servility, in which they were wholly dependent on industry for survival. Likewise, this impoverished proletariat could be easily manipulated through elaborate social programs enacted by a government that was firmly under the control of the new industrial ruling class. But perhaps the most troubling consequence of industrialization was that it created conditions under which a healthy religious culture could no longer flourish. For, by severing human beings from family, community, and nature, industrialization had effectively dissolved the primordial bonds that made religion tangible, and hence believable.”
“In countering industrialism, the Catholic Land Movement did not attempt to create an agrarian utopia, nor was it a Luddite rejection of technology. Rather, it was a prudent approach to economic life that was based on small-scale agriculture, craft-making, and retailing.”
Thus, by relying on the household, family, community, and nature’s bounty to provide as many basic needs as possible, people could free themselves from economic dependence and the political control of the plutocrats, and thereby regain a modicum of human dignity and freedom.”
“It was this desire to sustain an agrarian Christian culture against that of industrialism, rather than a desire to return all of society to some mythical agrarian past, that was the essential social vision of the leaders of the Catholic Land Movement.”
“By reclaiming the household as the center of economic life, and by relying on thrift, physical labor, and frugality, all Christians are capable of battling the corrosive effects of industrialization. In pursuing such a philosophy the long-term goal of a more humane and decentralized economy can be realized. For it is only when economics again becomes subservient to religious mores that the virtuous life is possible.”
I have yet to really dig into this book. When I do, perhaps I will post some more quotes. If you would like a copy of the book, check out www.ihspress.com