Part 4 of
Allan C. Carlson's
"The Natural Family
Where It Belongs"
(a book review)

15 February 2014

I am reviewing Allan C. Carlson’s new book, The Natural Family Where It Belongs: New Agrarian Essays (Click Here if you would like to begin with Part 1 of this series). 

Chapter 3 of this book is titled The “Good War”: World War II and the Displacement of Community in America. It is about how that war pretty much wiped out the last vestiges of traditional agrarian culture in America. 

Allan Carlson refers to a couple of interesting books in this chapter. One book is The Transformation of Rural Life: Southern Illinois, 1890—1990, by anthropologist Jane Adams. Carlson writes of Adams’ book...

“As late as 1940, she reports, the agriculture-based economy of this place [Union County, Illinois] was intact. Its family farms specialized in fruits and vegetables sent north for sale in Chicago Small dairy and poultry operations were ubiquitous. The annual collective butchering of hogs remained a community ritual. A few small factories making wooden shipping crates and shoes provided supplements to farm incomes. While strained by the Great Depression, Union County’s towns and villages were still vital, active places; the town squares and local shops busy; the schools full of children. Rural Union County homes “retained their multiple functions as workshop, warehouse, mess hall, dormitory, recreation center, infirmary, and funeral parlor for the farm and the people who worked on it, and women’s and children’s hard work was approvingly contrasted with urban idleness.”

All of this changed with the war as “young adults poured off the land: the men to war and the women to urban offices and factories.” Carlson writes that labor shortages hit the farms and “real horsepower finally gave way to a surge in tractors.” Also, the federal government became more involved in agriculture. Carlson returns to The Transformation of Rural Life...

“Without people being fully aware of it,” writes Adams, “the [Union County] economy shifted from dependence on agriculture and [light] manufacturing to a heavy reliance on government services.” As war factories and government bureaucracies transformed rural women into wage workers, the once creative home economy changed as well. As Adams explains, “they no longer had the time to raise a garden and put up quantities of food.” Industrial food processors in distant places supplanted them.

Speaking of this death of agrarian civilization, Carlson quotes from Wendell Berry...
“[p]eople ... began to move to the cities, and the machines moved from the cities into the fields.”

After two beginning chapters of this book not being directly related to the subject of agrarianism, this chapter was more of an agrarian essay. I enjoyed the historical and cultural perspective (which I have only briefly explained here). I even bought a used copy of Jane Adams’ book (for a dollar) so I could learn more.


Click Here to read Part 5 of this book review.


Cynthia (C.L) Lewis said...

I have to say that after your reviews of chapters, thus far, I am still quite interested. As a maternal, homemaking, multi-generational agrarian I find all the topics thus far interesting and useful. Even in church there are well-meaning,feminist influenced, escape the home, current culture influenced, industrialists. They find me quaint.

Anonymous said...

Now I believe I am even more interested in this book than before , I agree with Cynthia Lewis . Karen

Anonymous said...

Everything you've shared so far about this book is spot on! God has delivered me from the "feminist" mindset and led me by His Holy Spirit to live a more agrarian lifestyle. I've never been happier!! I'm at peace with myself, my family, the land, and The Lord. I did some canning today and also made yogurt from my goat's milk. Enjoyed watching my grandchildren run through the goat pastures, and they even helped me make my rounds this evening, feeding pigs, chickens, goats, and guardian dogs. Life is GOOD.