The Agrarian Burden

Recently, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute hosted a panel discussion on the “great books of conservatism,” among which was Richard Weaver’s 1948 work Ideas Have Consequences.  The title, as one panelist noted, has become something of a catchphrase on the right, even as the memory of Weaver and his own influences, the Southern Agrarians, fades into the past.  Indeed, the world of the Agrarians and the form of traditionalist conservatism they championed has almost completely disappeared from the “movement,” along with other conservative influences such as Russell Kirk and Whittaker Chambers.

With Superfluous Southerners, John Langdale III has written a penetrating study of the Agrarians and their intellectual heirs.  He aims to “reconsider the place of southern conservative intellectuals in the broader context of western and American antimodernism.”  Langdale, an assistant professor of history at Andrew College, focuses on six figures—Allen Tate, John Crowe Ransom, Donald Davidson, Richard Weaver, M.E. Bradford, and Cleanth Brooks—and touches on others, such as Walker Percy and Eugene Genovese, who in various ways continued Southern conservative themes.  In his Preface, he places the kind of conservatism he identifies with the Agrarians in conversation with other conservative critiques of modernity and the tradition of American pragmatism. ...

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