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The Moral Economy

The decline of the household economy is one of the most significant economic changes in post-World War II America.  Unfortunately, it has received relatively little attention.  Professional economists find it trivial compared to the workings of large-scale institutions and global economies, while the average American sees only a positive development that has meant greater mobility, money, and freedom from menial labor.  However, the seemingly benign death of the household economy has produced serious social ills.  The New Agrarianism makes the connection between them explicit.  Once human labor is removed from its ancient objects—the household, the community, and the land—a social pathology of cynicism and destruction ensues.  To overcome it, modern agrarians advocate more socially intimate ways of living and working, ways that are also resource-efficient and aesthetically pleasing.

Contemporary agrarianism builds upon a long tradition of agrarian radicalism in Western history going back to ancient Greece.  In recent times, agrarian thinkers have represented a wide range of political and philosophical opinion.  Whether from right or left, however, they have virtually always operated outside the political and intellectual mainstream.  Throughout the 20th century, agrarianism has been strongly identified with social and cultural conservatism.  Eric Freyfogle, in...

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