Agrarianism has two common meanings. The first meaning refers to a social philosophy or political philosophy which values rural society as superior to urban society, the independent farmer as superior to the paid worker, and sees farming as a way of life that can shape the ideal social values. It stresses the superiority of a simpler rural life as opposed to the complexity of city life, with its banks and factories. The American Thomas Jefferson was a representative agrarian who built Jeffersonian Democracy around the notion that farmers are “the most valuable citizens” and the truest republicans.
The philosophical roots of agrarianism include European and Chinese philosophers. The Chinese School of Agrarianism was a philosophy that advocated peasant utopian communalism and egalitarianism. This influenced European intellectuals like François Quesnay, an avid Confucianist and advocate of China's agrarian policies, forming the French agrarian philosophy of Physiocracy. The Physiocrats, along with the ideas of John Locke and the Romantic Era, formed the basis of modern European and American agrarianism.
Secondly, the term "agrarianism" means political proposals for land redistribution, specifically the distribution of land from the rich to the poor or landless. This terminology is common in many countries, and originated from the "Lex Sempronia Agraria" or "agrarian laws" of Rome in 133 BC, imposed by Tiberius Gracchus, that seized the lands of the rich and distributed them to the poor. This definition of agrarianism is commonly known as “agrarian reform.”
In societies influenced by Confucianism, the farmer was considered an esteemed productive member of society, whereas merchants who made money were looked down upon. In eighteenth- and nineteenth-century England, the word identified any land reform movement that sought to redistribute cultivated lands equally. Today, the word has largely shed this radical political meaning. Instead, agrarianism points to a collection of political, philosophical, and literary ideas that together tend to describe farm life in ideal terms.
- 1 Philosophy
- 2 History
- 3 Similar social movements
- 4 Agrarian theorists
- 5 Agrarian parties
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 Further reading
- 9 External links
- 10 Notes
In the introduction to his 1969 book Agrarianism in American Literature, M. Thomas Inge defines agrarianism by the following basic tenets:
- Cultivation of the soil provides direct contact with nature; through the contact with nature, the agrarian acquires the virtues of "honor, manliness, self-reliance, courage, moral integrity, and hospitality" and follows the example of God when creating order out of chaos.
- 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." The harmony of this life checks the encroachments of a fragmented, alienated modern society that has grown to inhuman scale.
- In contrast, farming offers more independence and self-sufficiency. It has a solid, stable position in the world order. But urban life, capitalism, and technology destroy independence and dignity while fostering vice and weakness. The agricultural community can provide checks and balances against the imbalances of modern society by its fellowship of labor and cooperation with other agrarians, while obeying the rhythms of nature.
Agriculturalism (農家/农家; Nongjia) was an early agrarian social and political philosophy in ancient China that advocated peasant utopian communalism and egalitarianism. The philosophy is founded on the notion that human society originates with the development of agriculture, and societies are based upon "people's natural prospensity to farm."
The Agriculturalists believed that the ideal government, modeled after the semi-mythical governance of Shennong, is led by a benevolent king, one who works alongside the people in tilling the fields. The Agriculturalist king is not paid by the government through its treasuries; his livelihood is derived from the profits he earns working in the fields, not his leadership. Unlike the Confucians, the Agriculturalists did not believe in the division of labour, arguing instead that the economic policies of a country need to be based upon an egalitarian self sufficiency. The Agriculturalists supported the fixing of prices, in which all similar goods, regardless of differences in quality and demand, are set at exactly the same, unchanging price.
They encouraged farming and agriculture and taught farming and cultivation techniques, as they believed that agricultural development was the key to a stable and prosperous society. The philosopher Mencius once criticized its chief proponent Xu Xing (許行) for advocating that rulers should work in the fields with their subjects. One of Xu's students is quoted as having criticized the duke of Teng in a conversation with Mencius by saying: ‘A worthy ruler feeds himself by ploughing side by side with the people, and rules while cooking his own meals. Now Teng on the contrary possesses granaries and treasuries, so the ruler is supporting himself by oppressing the people’.
Physiocracy was a French agrarianist philosophy that originated in the 18th century. The movement was particularly dominated by François Quesnay (1694–1774) and Anne-Robert-Jacques Turgot (1727–1781). The Physiocrats were partially influenced by Chinese agrarianism; leading physiocrats like François Quesnay were avid Confucianists that advocated China's agrarian policies.
European and American agrarianism
Borrowing from the French Physiocrats the idea that all wealth originates with the land, making farming the only truly productive enterprise, agrarianism claims that agriculture is the foundation of all other professions. Philosophically, European agrarianism reflects the ideas of John Locke, who declared in his Second Treatise of Civil Government (1690) that those who work land are its rightful owners. His labor theory of value influenced the thinking of Thomas Jefferson, who in turn shaped the way many nineteenth-century American homesteaders understood ownership of their farms. Jefferson wrote in 1785 in a letter to John Jay thatCultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens. They are the most vigorous, the most independent, the most virtuous, & they are tied to their country & wedded to its liberty & interests by the most lasting bonds.".
Richard Hofstadter has traced the sentimental attachment to the rural way of life which is "a kind of homage that Americans have paid to the fancied innocence of their origins. Hofstadter notes that to call this a "myth" is not to imply that the idea is simply false. Rather the myth so effectively an agrarian ethos that it profoundly influences people's ways of perceiving values and hence their behavior. He emphasizes the importance of the agrarian myth in American politics and life even after industrialization had revolutionized the American economy and life. He stresses the significance of the writings of Jefferson and his followers in the South, such as John Taylor of Caroline in the development of agricultural fundamentalism.
In the late eighteenth century and early nineteenth century, agrarianism felt the influence of the European Romanticism movement. Romantics focused attention on the individual and described nature as a spiritual force. At a time when pristine wilderness was becoming scarce in many parts of Europe, what constitutes “nature” was confused with the last remnants of wilderness—cultivated fields, managed woodlands, and cultivated livestock and crops. As someone in constant contact with (this watered-down version of) “nature”, the farmer was positioned to experience moments that transcend the mundane material world. In doing so, these thinkers managed to redefine nature in man's image, accommodating enclosure with a new “domesticated” version of nature.
In the 1910s and 1920s, agrarianism garnered significant popular attention, but was eclipsed in the postwar period. It has been revived somewhat in conjunction with the environmental movement, and has been drawing an increasing number of adherents.
In 1930 the Southern Agrarians wrote in the "Introduction: A Statement of Principles" to their book I'll Take My Stand: The South and the Agrarian Tradition thatAll the articles bear in the same sense upon the book's title-subject: all tend to support a Southern way of life against what may be called the American or prevailing way; and all as much as agree that the best terms in which to represent the distinction are contained in the phrase, Agrarian versus Industrial. ... Opposed to the industrial society is the agrarian, which does not stand in particular need of definition. An agrarian society is hardly one that has no use at all for industries, for professional vocations, for scholars and artists, and for the life of cities. Technically, perhaps, an agrarian society is one in which agriculture is the leading vocation, whether for wealth, for pleasure, or for prestige-a form of labor that is pursued with intelligence and leisure, and that becomes the model to which the other forms approach as well as they may. But an agrarian regime will be secured readily enough where the superfluous industries are not allowed to rise against it. The theory of agrarianism is that the culture of the soil is the best and most sensitive of vocations, and that therefore it should have the economic preference and enlist the maximum number of workers.
Recent agrarian thinkers are sometimes referred to as neo-Agrarian and include the likes of Wendell Berry, Paul B. Thompson, and Gene Logsdon. They are characterized by seeing the world through an agricultural lens. Although much of Inge's principles, above, still apply to the New Agrarianism, the affiliation with a particular religion and patriarchal tendency have subsided to some degree.
Agrarianism is not identical with the back-to-the-land movement, but it can be helpful to think of it in those terms. Agrarianism concentrates on the fundamental goods of the earth, communities of more limited economic and political scale than in modern society, and on simple living—even when this shift involves questioning the "progressive" character of some recent social and economic developments. Thus agrarianism is not industrial farming, with its specialization on products and industrial scale.
The name "agrarian" is properly applied to figures from Horace and Virgil in ancient Rome. European theorists include Pyotr Stolypin (1862–1911) and Alexander Chayanov (1888–1939) in Russia; Adolf Wagner (1835–1917), and Karl Oldenberg in Germany, and Bolesław Limanowski (1835-1835) in Poland.
The most important Canadian theorist on Agranian politics was an American immigrant, Henry Wise Wood, president of the United Farmers of Alberta (UFA) during that movement's time as the governing party of the province (1921–1935). He, like many Canadian farmers of the era, conceived of farmers as a distinct social class in the midst of a class struggle against capitalists who owned the banks, railways, and grain trading companies which profited from the efforts of farmers. His solution was a kind of corporatism called "group government". In this scheme, people would be represented in government by a party or organization that defended the interests of their particular occupation or industry, not a particular ideology. On the basis of this philosophy the UFA, as the representative of the farmers as a class, ran candidates only in rural area and not in the cities. Instead they urged their urban sympathizers to vote for Labour candidates, as the representatives of the urban working class. This type of farmer-labour co-operation became common throughout Western Canada, leading to the creation of the short-lived Progressive Party of Canada in the 1920s, and the more durable Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (Farmer-Labour-Socialist) in Calgary, Alberta, in 1935, precursor to Canada's modern-day social democratic party, the New Democratic Party. Demeritt (1995) argues that in British Columbia (and Canada generally), there were three overlapping agrarian viewpoints. Arcadianism was based on nostalgic memories of rural England, and led to the widespread creation of orchards and gardens. Agrarianism claimed agriculture was the source of all wealth and called for the wide distribution of land as the foundation of democracy and freedom. The Country Life Movement was a loose grouping of social reformers, church leaders, and urban progressives; they sought solutions for rural economic decline, social stagnation, and the depopulation of the countryside.
In American history important spokesmen included Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, J. Hector St. John de Crèvecœur (1735–1813), and John Taylor of Caroline (1753–1824) in the early national period. In the mid-19th century important leaders included Transcendentalists such as Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882) and Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862). After 1890 came philosopher Josiah Royce (1855–1916), botanist Liberty Hyde Bailey (1858–1954), the Southern Agrarians of the 1920s and 1930s, novelist John Steinbeck (1902–1968), historian A. Whitney Griswold (1906–1963), environmentalist Aldo Leopold (1887–1948), Ralph Borsodi (1886–1977), and present-day authors Wendell Berry (b. 1934), Gene Logsdon (b. 1932), Paul Thompson, and Allan C. Carlson (b. 1949).
Leading American Neo-Agrarian Theorists
Aldo Leopold Leopold was born in 1887 and educated at Yale University. He developed the field of game management and introduced an ecological ethic that replaced an earlier wilderness ethic where human dominance is stressed. In addition, he included the farm as a place of conservation and is considered an agrarian scholar. Leopold believed that harm was frequently done to natural systems out of a sense of ownership and this idea eclipsed community. He expanded the idea of community to include the environment and the farm. Leopold is the author of several essays and is perhaps best known for his book A Sand County Almanac (1953).
Wendell Berry Wendell Berry is an author of several books, essays, and poems whose writing often illustrates his values which center around sustainable agriculture, healthy rural communities, and a connection to place. He is a prominent defender of agrarian values and has an appreciation for traditional farming. Rod Dreher writes the following: “[Berry's] unshakable devotion to the land, to localism, and to the dignity of traditional life makes him both a great American and, to the disgrace of our age, a prophet without honor in his native land."
J. Baird Callicott Callicott is, perhaps, best known for his research which explores an Aldo Leopold ethic as a response to global climate change. Callicott supports a holistic, non-anthropocentric environmental ethic which is in accordance with Leopold's view that "A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise" He holds the view that an adequate environmental ethic — one that addresses actual environmental concerns — must be intrinsically holistic.
Paul B. Thompson Paul Thompson is the W.K. Kellogg Chair in Agricultural Food and Community Ethics at Michigan State University. He has published extensively on the social and environmental significance of agriculture and a number of volumes and papers on the philosophical significance of farming, notably The Spirit of the Soil: Agriculture and Environmental Ethics (1995) and The Agrarian Roots of Pragmatism (2000). His most recient publication called The Agrarian Vision focuses on sustainability and what agrarian philosophy can offer when we conceptualize what sustainability actually means.
In Russia the intellectuals of the "Populists" (Narodnaya Volya) and, later, the Socialist-Revolutionary Party developed a theoretical basis for a peasant movement, building a rich, well-developed humanistic ideology which influenced eastern Europe, especially the Balkans. It never attained the international visibility among peasants that socialism did among the urban workers.
Peasant parties first appeared across Eastern Europe between 1860 and 1910, when commercialized agriculture and world market forces disrupted traditional rural society, and the railway and growing literacy facilitated the work of roving organizers. Agrarian parties advocated land reforms to redistribute land on large estates among those who work it. They also wanted village cooperatives to keep the profit from crop sales in local hands, and credit institutions to underwrite needed improvements. Many peasant parties were also nationalist parties, because peasants often worked their land for the benefit of landlords of different ethnicity.
Peasant parties rarely had any power before World War I, but some became influential in the interwar era, especially in Bulgaria and Czechoslovakia. For a while in the 1920s and 1930s there was a Green International (International Agrarian Bureau) based on the peasant parties in Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Poland and Serbia. It functioned primarily as an information center that spread the ideas of agrarianism and combating socialism on the left and landlords on the right, and never launched any significant activities.
In Bulgaria, Bulgarian Agrarian National Union (BZNS) was organized in 1899 to resist taxes and build cooperatives. BZNS came to power in 1919 and introduces many economic, social, and legal reforms. However conservative forces crushed BZNS in a 1923 coup and assassinated its leader, Aleksandar Stamboliyski (1879–1923). BZNS was made into a Communist puppet group until 1989, when it reorganized as a genuine party.
In Czechoslovakia the Republican Party of Agricultural and Smallholder People often shared power in parliament as a partner in the five-party pětka coalition. The party's leader Antonin Svehla (1873–1933) was prime minister several times. The party was banned.
In Romania, in 1919 older parties from Transylvania, Moldavia and Wallachia merged to become the National Peasant Party. Iuliu Maniu (1873–1953) was prime minister with an agrarian cabinet from 1928 to 1930, but the Great Depression made proposed reforms impossible. The Communists dissolved the party in 1947, but it reformed in 1989 after Communism collapsed.
In Serbia Nikola Pašić (1845–1926) and his Radical Party dominated Serbian politics after 1903; they also monopolized power in Yugoslavia from 1918 to 1929; during the dictatorship of the 1930s, it furnished the prime minister.
In Poland Bolesław Limanowski thought deeply about Agrarianism and worked out an eclectic program that fit Polish conditions. His practical experience as a farm manager combined with socialist, "single-tax," and Slavic communal ideas shaped his world view. He proposed a form of agrarian socialism with large state farms to counteract the inefficiency of very small holdings. In independent Poland he advocated expropriation of gentry estates. His observation of with peasant individualism convinced him that Poland should combine voluntary collectivism and individual possession of the leased land. His pragmatism left room even for private peasant ownership, despite his Marxism.
In Australia, the Country Party from the 1920s to the 1970s, promulgated its version of agrarianism, which it called "Countrymindedness". The goal was to enhance the status of the graziers (operators of big sheep ranches) and small farmers, and justified subsidies for them.
- ^ Thompson, Paul. 2010. “Interview Eighteen” in Sustainability Ethics: 5 Questions Ed. Ryne Raffaelle, Wade Robinson, and Evan Selinger. United States: Automatic Press
- ^ Thomas P. Govan, "Agrarian and Agrarianism: A Study in the Use and Abuse of Words," Journal of Southern History, Vol. 30#1 (Feb., 1964), pp. 35-47 in JSTOR
- ^ a b Deutsch, Eliot; Ronald Bontekoei (1999). A companion to world philosophies. Wiley Blackwell. p. 183.
- ^ L.A. Maverick, "Chinese Influences upon the Physiocrats," Economic History, 3:54-67 (February 1938),
- ^ H. H. Scullard, From the Gracchi to Nero: A History of Rome from 133 B.C. to A.D. 68 (1963) ch 2
- ^ Sellmann, James Daryl (2010). Timing and rulership in Master Lü's Spring and Autumn annals. SUNY Press. p. 76.
- ^ a b Denecke, Wiebke (2011). The Dynamics of Masters Literature: Early Chinese Thought from Confucius to Han Feizi. Harvard University Press. p. 38.
- ^ Steiner (2003) p62
- ^ 
- ^ Thomas Jefferson: Letter to John Jay August 23, 1785
- ^ Richard Hofstadter, The Age of Reform (1955)
- ^ I'll Take My Stand, Introduction: A Statement Of Principles, Southern Agrarians
- ^ Frank Bourgholtzer, "Aleksandr Chayanov And Russian Berlin," Journal of Peasant Studies, July 1999, Vol. 26 Issue 4, pp 13-53
- ^ Kenneth D. Barkin, "Conflict and Concord in Wilhelmian Social Thought," Central European History March 1972, Vol. 5 Issue 1, pp 55-71
- ^ K. J. Cottam, "Boleslaw Limanowski, A Polish Theoretician Of Agrarian Socialism," Slavonic and East European Review, Jan 1973, Vol. 51 Issue 122, pp 58-74
- ^ http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=ArchivedFeatures&Params=A1142
- ^ http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=A1ARTA0008689
- ^ Jeffery M. Taylor, "The Language of Agrarianism in Manitoba, 1890-1925," Labour / Le Travail, Spring 1989, Vol. 23, pp 91-118
- ^ David Demeritt, "Visions of Agriculture in British Columbia," BC Studies, Winter 1995, Issue 108, pp 29-59
- ^ Roderick Nash, Wilderness and the American Mind (4th ed. 2001, Yale U.P.)
- ^ Curt Meine, Aldo Leopold: His Life and Work (University of Wisconsin Press, 1988)
- ^ The Agriculture, Food, and Community Ethics Website
- ^ Thompson, Paul. 2010. The Agrarian Vision. Lexington: The University of Kentucky Press.
- ^ Isaiah Berlin, "The Populists' Moral Condemnation of Russia Political and Social Systems," in Arthur E. Adams, ed. Problems of European Civilization: Imperial Russia after 1861 (1965)
- ^ Hannu Immonen, The Agrarian Program of the Russian Socialist Revolutionary Party, 1900–1911 (1988).
- ^ Cottam, "Boleslaw Limanowski, A Polish Theoretician of Agrarian Socialism," Slavonic and East European Review, Jan 1973, Vol. 51 Issue 122, pp 58-74
- ^ Rae Wear, "Countrymindedness Revisited," (Australian Political Science Association, 1990) online edition
- Danbom, David B. "Romantic Agrarianism in Twentieth-Century America," Agricultural History, Vol. 65#4 (Autumn, 1991), pp. 1–12 in JSTOR
- Grampp, William D. "John Taylor: Economist of Southern Agrarianism," Southern Economic Journal, Vol. 11#3 (Jan., 1945), pp. 255–268 in JSTOR
- Hofstadter, Richard. "Parrington and the Jeffersonian Tradition," Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 2, No. 4 (Oct., 1941), pp. 391–400 in JSTOR
- Kolodny, Annette. The Land before Her: Fantasy and Experience of the American Frontiers, 1630-1860 (1984). onlin edition
- Marx, Leo. The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America (1964).
- Murphy, Paul V. The Rebuke of History: The Southern Agrarians and American Conservative Thought (2000)
- Parrington, Vernon. Main Currents in American Thought (1927), 3-vol online
- Quinn, Patrick F. "Agrarianism and the Jeffersonian Philosophy," Review of Politics, Vol. 2#1 (Jan., 1940), pp. 87–104 in JSTOR
- Thompson, Paul, and Thomas C. Hilde, eds. The Agrarian Roots of Pragmatism (2000)
- Bell, John D. Peasants in Power: Alexander Stamboliski and the Bulgarian Agrarian National Union, 1899–1923(1923)
- Donnelly, James S. Captain Rock: The Irish Agrarian Rebellion of 1821-1824 (2009)
- Donnelly, James S. Irish Agrarian Rebellion, 1760-1800 (2006)
- Gross, Feliks, ed. European Ideologies: A Survey of 20th Century Political Ideas (1948) pp 391–481 online edition, on Russia and Bulgaria
- Narkiewicz, Olga A. The Green Flag: Polish Populist Politics, 1867–1970 (1976).
- Oren, Nissan. Revolution Administered: Agrarianism and Communism in Bulgaria (1973), focus is post 1945
- Paine, Thomas. Agrarian Justice (1794)
- Patterson, James G. In the Wake of the Great Rebellion: Republican, Agrarianism and Banditry in Ireland After 1798 (2008)
- Roberts, Henry L. Rumania: Political Problems of an Agrarian State (1951).
- Zagorin, Perez. Rebels and Rulers, 1500-1660: Volume 1, Agrarian and Urban Rebellions : Society, States and Early Modern Revolution (1982)
- Goodwyn, Lawrence. The Populist Moment: A Short History of the Agrarian Revolt in America (1978), 1880s and 1890s in U.S.
- Lipset, Seymour Martin. Agrarian socialism: the Coöperative Commonwealth Federation in Saskatchewan (1950)
- McConnell, Grant. The decline of agrarian democracy(1953), 20th century U.S.
- Mark, Irving. Agrarian conflicts in colonial New York, 1711-1775 (1940)
- Ochiai, Akiko. Harvesting Freedom: African American Agrarianism in Civil War Era South Carolina (2007)
- Robison, Dan Merritt. Bob Taylor and the agrarian revolt in Tennessee (1935)
- Stine, Harold E. The agrarian revolt in South Carolina;: Ben Tillman and the Farmers' Alliance (1974)
- Summerhill, Thomas. Harvest of Dissent: Agrarianism in Nineteenth-Century New York (2005)
- Szatmary, David P. Shay's Rebellion: The Making of an Agrarian Insurrection (1984), 1787 in Massachusetts
- Woodward, C. Vann. Tom Watson: Agrarian Rebel (1938) online edition
- Woodward, C. Vann. "Tom Watson and the Negro in Agrarian Politics," The Journal of Southern History, Vol. 4, No. 1 (Feb., 1938), pp. 14–33 in JSTOR
- Ginzberg, Eitan. "State Agrarianism versus Democratic Agrarianism: Adalberto Tejeda's Experiment in Veracruz, 1928-32," Journal of Latin American Studies, Vol. 30#2 (May, 1998), pp. 341–372 in JSTOR
- Handy, Jim. Revolution in the Countryside: Rural Conflict and Agrarian Reform in Guatemala, 1944-1954 (1994)
- Jacoby, Erich H. Agrarian unrest in Southeast Asia (1949)
- Paige, Jeffery M. Agrarian revolution: social movements and export agriculture in the underdeveloped world (1978) 435 pages excerpt and text search
- Sanderson, Steven E. Agrarian populism and the Mexican state: the struggle for land in Sonora (1981)
- Stokes, Eric. The Peasant and the Raj: Studies in Agrarian Society and Peasant Rebellion in Colonial India (1980)
- Tannenbaum, Frank. The Mexican Agrarian Revolution (1930)
- "Agrarianism" in American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia
- "Agrarian Valhalla: The Vanderbilt 12 and Beyond" by Joseph Scotchie, Southern Events
- Writings of a Deliberate Agrarian
- The New Agrarian
Simple living Practices Movements Books Related topics
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.