Whither Conservatism?

Its been 78 years now since a group of young idealistic poets and academics, calling themselves Twelve Southerners, published the Agrarian manifesto I’ll Take My Stand.  Most had previously been associated with a group of writers know as the Fugitive Poets, and most were affiliated with Vanderbilt University.  Following publication of their book, they became known as the Nashville or Vanderbilt Agrarians.

Dismissed and ridiculed, then and now, as quixotic dreamers, the Agrarians didn’t just object to industrialism and praise agrarianism, they called for action–urging folks to embrace agrarian values and the agrarian way of life, and to resist and oppose industrialism.  Their challenge was not just to the economics of industrialism, but to the set of values that accompany it.  And their call was not that everyone move to the country and begin farming, so much as it was that they reject the methods and oppose the effects of the philosophy of industrialism.

Few copies of the book were printed, sold or read.  Sadly, most of the Agrarians fell by the wayside, often ending up in teaching positions in urban universities.   One, Robert Penn Warren, went on to win two Pulitizers.

But for a dedicated and idealistic few, the book remains vital.  I am among them.  I’ll Take My Stand, as dated and impractical as it is, is one of my all-time favorites.  A few years ago I found an original printing in a used book store, signed by John Crowe Ransom.  That book is one of my treasures.

So I was excited to run across the following essay a few years ago.  While I don’t subscribe to every thought in it, the author does an excellent job, in my opinion, of relating the vision of the Agrarians to the demise of traditional conservatism today. 

Whither conservatism?

By George Shadroui

September 2, 2003

A historical look at our country; from its roots to the conservatism of today, focusing on Buckley and Kirk. Until conservatives and Republicans reacquaint themselves with the issues of government excess and crass materialism in a serious way, we risk losing ourselves in the same materialist quagmire that destroyed socialism.