In 1930, a group of southern intellectuals led by John Crowe
Ransom, Allen Tate, Donald Davidson, and Robert Penn Warren
published I'll Take My Stand: The South and the Agrarian
. A stark attack on industrial capitalism and a
defiant celebration of southern culture, the book has raised the
hackles of critics and provoked passionate defenses from southern
loyalists ever since. As Paul Murphy shows, its effects on the
evolution of American conservatism have been enduring as well.
Tracing the Agrarian tradition from its origins in the 1920s
through the present day, Murphy shows how what began as a radical
conservative movement eventually became, alternately, a critique of
twentieth-century American liberalism, a defense of the Western
tradition and Christian humanism, and a form of southern
traditionalism--which could include a defense of racial
segregation. Although Agrarianism failed as a practical reform
movement, its intellectual influence was wide-ranging, Murphy says.
This influence expanded as Ransom, Tate, and Warren gained
reputations as leaders of the New Criticism. More notably, such
"neo-Agrarians" as Richard M. Weaver and M. E. Bradford transformed
Agrarianism into a form of social and moral traditionalism that has
had a significant impact on the emerging conservative movement
since World War II.