Michele Cento

Between the Old South and the Old World: The Southern Agrarians and the Conservative Criticism of American Progress

  • Abstract

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Keywords: Southern Agrarians, Agrarianism, American Conservatism, Old South, Amer¬ican exceptionalism

The essay deals with a lesser-known wing of American conservatism: anti-progressive and anti-industrial Southern Agrarian intellectuals, based at Vanderbilt University of Nashville (Tn.). Between the 1920s and the 1930s, they focused on a critical analysis of the self-representation of America as a progressive nation, and affirm the primacy of a traditional and agrarian Gemeinschaft over the modern and industrial society embodied by the United States. Their view lied on a reevaluation of the Old South intellectual heritage through the appropriation of elements of conservative European thought. The essay thus emphasizes the influence of Europe in shaping the Southern Agrarians' vision of the traditional society. Such vision was markedly different from the conventional image conveyed by progressive and industrial America. Overthrowing the usual exceptionalist separation between Europe and America, the Southern Agrar¬ians joined the intellectual struggle to redefine the American identity.

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