The Southern Agrarian movement, born in the 1920’s, is rooted deep in Southern soil. It also goes back to the English Cavalier culture with its system of aristocracy and social hierarchy. Added to that is the Scottish influence with its clan structure – again, a system based on hierarchy. The need to return to this traditional, simpler, more orderly, and self-reliant way of life is slowly being rediscovered.
Southern Agrarians plug themselves into something very basic – the soil, the family, the culture, and the God of The Bible.
Southern Agrarianism is a cultural movement, and that is our primary focus; however, this is also about the hands-on aspects. Growing your own food, raising chickens and ducks and other small livestock makes this a very tangible way of life rather than simply a set of beliefs.
Southern Agrarianism is about being rooted in the land – not being a dependent cog in the complex machine of urban life. Southern Agrarianism is a way of life that can safely weather the storms that regularly sweep through society.
It is about leading the way to a life set free from the bonds of an increasingly complex society and the vulnerabilities that go with it. It is about tradition and social order. It is about growing plants and raising animals and understanding the meaning of husbandry and stewardship. It is about understanding our place in the world – those who came before us and those who will follow after us. It is about knowing our place as a link in an unbroken chain and our responsibility to the entire chain.
Southern Agrarianism is a Blood and Soil movement. It takes in two of the most basic concepts in all of history: Our People, and the land of our ancestors that provides the food that feeds our people. It means that while we wish all the best toward others, our immediate family comes first, followed by ever larger circles of extended family, and then on out from there. There is Our People, and there is Other People.
This being Southern Agrarianism, our people are the Southern people; those who originated in Europe and built the South. While the Scots brought their clan culture, and the Germans, the Scandinavians, the Slavs, and others added their flavor, the culture of the South was most heavily influenced by the Cavaliers who fled the violence of the English civil war and settled in the South. They brought with them the English high culture which translated into the Southern Plantation culture: a hierarchy-based culture that was deeply rooted in the soil. There was a sense of kinship that was shared by both the smallest share cropping farmer and the largest plantation owner; they shared the common bond of those who live close to the soil. They were Southern Agrarians.
The Southern Gentleman – that icon of good manners exemplified by Robert E. Lee – is a big part of Southern culture. Honor, manners, and etiquette help define a culture, and the culture of Southern Agrarianism places a high value on that. It is chivalry with a Southern accent.
The Southern Agrarian movement was first described in the book, I’ll Take My Stand, (published in 1930) by Twelve Southerners. While I’ll Take My Stand is the starting point for Southern Agrarianism, we make no attempt to be purists. It is our starting point and our cornerstone, but it is not the final word on Southern Agrarianism.
For more on Southern Agrarianism, please visit The Southern Agrarian (a blog published by Stephen Clay McGehee).