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Citizenship Papers

by Wendell Berry

Shoemaker & Hoard, 2004, Paperback
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Praise for Citizenship Papers

"Berry says that these recent essays mostly say again what he has said before. His faithful readers may think he hasn't, however, said any of it better before. So it always seems with Berry, one of English's finest stylists, as perspicuous as T. H. Huxley at his best and as perspicacious as John Ruskin at his. Like Huxley, Berry cares about how life persists; like Ruskin, about how economics and politics impinge upon life. Naturally, then, his constant subject is the fostering of life, especially human life--in a word, agriculture. As Huxley in "On a Piece of Chalk" (1865) shows how a little natural chalk implicates vast evolutionary processes, Berry in "Let the Farm Judge" shows how one facet of agriculture—sound sheep raising—implicates all of it. Like Ruskin, Berry descries more deeply than others the dangers major crises reveal; if Ruskin's "Storm Cloud of the Nineteenth Century" (1884) is the most penetrating critique of industrialism in his day (the storm cloud was air pollution), Berry's pieces on 9/11 and official reaction to it constitute the most powerful response to today's global industrialism. In those essays and throughout, Berry sees America persisting, as it has for a century, to choose industrialism over agrarianism. He hopefully counsels reversing that choice and, so doing, again embracing life and community." — Ray Olson, Booklist

Quotes from Citizenship Papers

I will not be altogether surprised to be told that I have set forth here a line of thought that is attractive but hopeless. A number of critics have advised me of this, out of their charity, as if I might have written of my hopes for forty years without giving a thought to hopelessness. Hope, of course, is always accompanied by the fear of hopelessness, which is a legitimate fear.

And so I would like to conculde by confronting directly the issue of hope. My hope is most seriously challenged by the fact of decline, of loss. The things that I have tried to defend are less numerous and worse off now that when I started, but in this I am only like all other conservationists. All of us have been fighting a battle that on average we are losing, and I doubt that there is any use in reviewing the statistical proofs. The point—the only interesting point—is that we have not quit. Ours is not a fight that you can stay in very long if you look on victory as a sign of triumph or on loss as a sign of defeat. We have not quit because we are not hopeless.

My own aim aim is not hopelessness. I am not looking for reasons to give up. I am looking for reasons to keep on. In outlining there the concerns of agrarianism, I have intended to show how the effort of conservation could be enlarged and strengthened.

What agrarian principles implicitly propose—and what I explicitly propose in advocating those principles at this time—is a revolt of local small producers and local consumers against the global industrialism of the corporations. Do I think that there is a hope that such a revolt can survive and succeed, and that it can have a significant influence upon our lives and our world?

Yes, I do. And to be as plain as possible. let me just say what I know. I know from friends and neighbors and from my own family that it is now possible for farmers to sell at a premium to local customers such produc as organic vegetables, organic beef and lamb, and pasture-raised chickens. This market is being made by the exceptional goodness and freshness of the food, by the wish of urban consumers to support their farming neighbors, and by the excesses and abuses of the corporate food industry.

This is the pattern of an economic revolt that is not only possible but is happening. It is happening for two reasons: First, as the scale of industrial agriculture increases, so does the scale of its abuses, and it is hard to hide large-scale abuses from consumers. . . . Second, as the food industries focus more and more on gigantic global opportunities, they cannot help but overlook small local opportunities, . . . .

From The Whole Horse

Table of Contents of Citizenship Papers

  1. A Citizen's Response
  2. Thoughts in the Presence of Fear
  3. The Failure of War
  4. Going to Work
  5. In Distrust of Movements
  6. Twelve Paragraphs on Biotechnology
  7. Let the Farm Judge
  8. The Total Economy
  9. A Long Job, Too Late to Quit
  10. Two Minds
  11. The Prejudice Against Country People
  12. The Whole Horse
  13. Stupidity in Concentration
  14. Watershed and Commonwealth
  15. The Agrarian Standard
  16. Still Standing
  17. Conservationist and Agrarian
  18. Tuscany
  19. Is Life a Miracle?

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