Niether liberty men nor equality men; Mel Bradford and Agrarianism

31 Jul

From the Imaginative Conservative (excerpt)

Just what was the Agrarian moral and political enterprise? In short, the Agrarians recognized the threat posed to traditional communities and ways of life and thought by industrialism and applied science. They saw, earlier than most, that industrialism and applied science were not simply benign ways of improving our material standard of living. Rather, they were ways of organizing society.  When enlisted in the causes of Progress and Equality, industrialism and applied science dissolved the traditional social bonds that united individuals and held society together. Centralization was substituted for “social bond” individualism. No longer would society be held together by individuals who were bound to each other in their natural families, churches, and communities. With traditional bonds dissolved, society would only be held together by uniting each individual to a centralized state—that is, society would be held together by force instead of love. They believed that society should be organized on a human scale. And, because they accepted the idea of original sin and St. Augustine’s vision of the City of Man and the City of God (that the City of Man was finite and corrupt and therefore could never be perfected), they rejected any faith in certain Progress or the perfectibility of man.

Because they were Southern (and hence rather more European by inheritance than American intellectuals from the north or west), the political vision of the Agrarians conformed not at all to the familiar native political categories: in a word, they were neither ‘liberty men’ nor ‘equality men. . .Their measure of any polity was its human (and not its legal or economic) product. As a body they were doubtful about ‘Progress’—and even doubtful that the appearance of the ‘progressive,’ post bellum United States on the stage of history was in the long run to be of certain benefit to Western man.[4]



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