Southern Agrarians

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Southern Agrarians | Wikipedia

I'll Take My Stand: The South and the Agrarian Tradition | Library of Southern Civilization
New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture

Defining the South: Exploring Southern Regional Identity and Self-Conception through the Southern Agrarians
The Transformation of an Agrarian Society | Post Reconstruction through 1920
The Southern Agrarians and Utopia
I’ll Take My Stand: The Relevance of the Agrarian Vision
Southern Agrarian vs Northern Industrialist Impact on Seccession

The Poltical Economy of the Southern Agrarian Tradition
Religion and art also suffer in an industrial regime because they both depend on a right attitude toward nature: one which that regime destroys. The life of piety is one in which man stands in right relations with God and man, but such a life would at best be difficult to maintain in a society which destroys “manners, conversation, hospitality, sympathy, family life, and romantic love. . . .” The only remedy for this spiritual poverty, as well as the other evils of industrialism, is to throw off the industrial order and replace it with an agrarian one. ...As an alternative to the unlimited acquisitiveness and servility to appetite, and external coercion and irreligion of industrial society, the Twelve Southerners assert the goodness of an agrarian society and the moderate wealth, freedom, and piety it fosters.
The Southern Agrarians and the Tennessee Valley Authority
As Southerners, the Agrarians were especially sensitive to the im-perialistic and exploitative character of large-scale industrialism. The idea that the South was in economic thralldom to the capitalistic North was a staple of southern social thought and southern political rhetoric during the 1930s. For Davidson and the other Agrarians, the nature of the Northeast was "to devour, to exploit, to imperialize," to "walk in silk and satin," while the West and South went in "shoddy." They pointed to the taking over of southern banks, factories and national resources by Yankee capitalists during the late 19th century as illustrating the aggrandizing character of northern capitalism. They claimed that the New South movement, which had encouraged this invasion of northern capitalists, had merely benefited the northern worker and capitalist, while the South had been left impoverished and sucking at the "hind tit."8
The dominance of the financial-industrial plutocracy, the Agrarians believed, could be traced back to the southern defeat during the Civil War. They accepted the Beardian interpretation of the war as a struggle between an agrarian, conservative South and an industrial, imperialistic North which destroyed the last major barrier to the complete victory of large-scale capitalism. Fletcher wrote of Reconstruction as
  ... the hour
  When Grant and Wall Street linked, began their work 
  Which has not ended yet...
After 1865, the Northeast reduced the South and West to "the position of complaisant accomplices and servile dependents," and through the Republican Party enacted a program fostering big business, the centralization of finance, the proletarianization of the middle class and the destruction of agriculture. The Agrarians cited the protective tariff, the Supreme Court's interpretations of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, and discriminatory railroad rates as examples of advantages acquired by northern capitalists because of their control of the national government. They blamed these subsidies and privileges for the postbellum growth of big business and high finance and the creation of "an economic fascism which threatens the essential democratic institutions of America." The Agrarians argued that the only way to check the economic imperialism of the Northeast was through a revival of regional sentiment in the South and West resulting in sectional economic self-determination.9
The urbanization of the United States dismayed the Agrarians as much as did industrialization. The anonymity, alienation, loneliness and regimentation of the modern American city contrasted sharply, they believed, with rural values and the rural way of life. In addition, they attributed the urban popularity of radical, anti-democratic political movements to the city's large proletariat and its lack of a large property-owning middle class. Davidson's poem "The Long Street" perhaps best reveals the Agrarian attitude toward the modern city.
  It was different, once, for Orestes Brown. He lived
  In the hill country where the bluegrass turns
  To upland fallows and tobacco barns,
  A land of no strangers. Orestes Brown had known 
  Man, woman, child, both white and black, and called 
  Folks by their first names from the Cumberland on 
  To his own hearthside. But all that was before
  The family trouble that besets our race
  Drove him to wander through a kinless world
  Till he became a function and a number-
  Motorman Seventeen, on the company rolls-
  For whom, by singular principles of bondage,
  Man, woman, child, both white and black, we were turned 
  To strangers all, who dropped their seven cents
  Into the cash-box, so becoming fares,
  Then sat or stood, nameless, till they got off
  But he, Orestes Brown, was not content
  That people should go back and forth without
  The pleasure of a name between themselves
  And him; and in the fullness of his heart
  He broke the rules-he talked to sulky boys
  After the school and movies, or old men
  With hound-dog weariness in their eyes, or forms 
  That had a country slouch about the shoulders. 
  These last would sometimes talk; the rest, not often.
  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 
  But I knew how the Lord said long ago:
  I have set my face against this city for evil!
  And the Lord said: It shall be given
  To the King of Babylon to burn with fire;
  And desolate is Zion's mount where th efoxes run!10
The Agrarians pointed to the city's flashy and cosmopolitan artists as proof of its estrangement from traditional American culture. Truly American art, they proclaimed, could be produced only by artists rooted in a provincial and conservative society, such as the South, and not by deracinated and bohemian urbanites who prefer "sophistication over wisdom; experiment over tradition; technique over style; emancipation over morals." New York, "an island of transplanted Europeans anchored off the Atlantic coast," "a spectacular cosmopolitan city of borrowed culture," which attracted "all the celebrities and semi-celebrities of Europe into its orbit," exemplified the metropolis' alienation from the American hinterland.
— p. 795-797