This essay was published in Why the South Will Survive: Fifteen Southerners Look at Their Region a Half Century after I’ll Take My Stand, edited by Clyde Wilson, 1981.
When the Southern Agrarians took their stand, they did it stoutly, on two feet. Some emphasized the “Southern,” others the “Agrarian,” but fifty years ago it seemed that the two loyalties, to the South and to rural life, could (indeed, pretty well had to) go together.
Today that juxtaposition is less self-evidently sensible. If ever a society can be said to have repudiated agrarianism, the South, to all appearances, has done so. Two-thirds of all Southerners now are “urban” by Census Bureau standards; of the rural one-third, only a fraction are employed in agriculture; and of those a good many are proprietors or hands in “agribusiness”—an expression that some of the Agrarians blessedly did not live to encounter.
It is still possible to combine an affection for the South with an appreciation of the virtues and strengths of the family farm and rural life, but someone who is not prepared to exclude most residents of the South from the category “Southerner” must recognize that it is no longer a matter of defending a “Southern way of life” against industrialism. Increasingly, that way of life is industrialism.
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