October 27, 2003

The great Agrarian Internet Tour

No one really knows what an agrarian is. And I can't blame them.

If you search for "agrarianism" on google, the first thing that comes up is this:

"...the English words, agrarianism, and agrarian generally, imply theories and movements intended to benefit the poorer classes of society by dealing in some way with the ownership of land or the legal obligations of the cultivators."

Well... "benefitting the poorer classes" might be a consequence of agrarianism, but I don't think that's the intention. Let's try again.

A Wikipedia search yields, among other things, "Agrarianism is a social and political philosophy." Way to play it safe, guys. Later on in the entry one finds:

"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."

That sounds better. But let's leave the neutral sources behind for a while, and go to a website from a self-styled agrarian called, unsurprisingly, The New Agrarian. Here, you'll find the assertion that agrarians are often conservative:

"A liberal, in other words, believes that people are basically good; a conservative believes they are basically rotten, or at least highly corruptible."

When placed in proper context, that's essentially correct. But the interesting thing is not what an agrarian believes about people per se, but what those beliefs often lead to:

"Agrarians abhor concentrations of power. This is nearly universal, whether it makes them politically conservative or liberal; some find concentration of political power more abhorrent, some concentration of economic power. But power corrupts, and New Agrarians detest all its forms equally. Concentration of political power withers free thought and voluntarism; concentration of economic power stifles initiative and innovation; concentration of military power enforces tyranny and breeds barbarism."

Ahh, now we're getting somewhere. But let's not forget why we went on this tour. Just when we seem to have agrarianism pinned down, we get what seems to be a variant calling itself Christian agrarianism. Is this an isolated spinoff, or is agrarianism inextricably tied up with Christianity? Rummage around some more and you'll find that virtually everyone claiming to be an agrarian finds a way to bring in God--usually in the Christian sense. Do you need to be a Christian to be an agrarian? I think not.

You'll also find that there's a frequent association with the Old South, starting with the "Twelve Southerners" of I'll Take My Stand, and continuing through a randomly selected list on Amazon.com.

Do you need to be a Southerner, or at least a Southern sympathizer, to be an agrarian? I think not.

Which brings me to the several points of our tour. Agrarianism isn't well-defined. Agrarianism has many versions. I can understand that when I claim to be an agrarian, you might plausibly want more information. (You might make an FRCP Rule 12e motion for a more definite statement, if the civil-procedural view of life floats your boat...)

So over the next few months I'll try to address the issue on this blog, and maybe I'll have the time to get a good agrarian website up and running. Until then, please feel free to take some self-guided tours of your own.

Posted by Carey at October 27, 2003 08:04 PM

Sweet! You've started.

I'm waiting for you to come to the bits about chickens, right after you hit the "concentration of power" thing. I mean, how better to decentralize?


Posted by: Heidi at October 27, 2003 09:25 PM