Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Daily Deliberation #1

In homage to Bryan Appleyard's Ponder Posts, I am initiating my own brand of open ended queries into the seemingly mysterious workings of the universe. It also is a good way to keep traffic up in the face of a dearth of time to write proper posts.

Today's teaser: why are rural folk more conservative than urban folk?


Blogger erp said...

By rural folks, do you mean farmers and the like, or do you mean those who choose to live in the boonies, but are really not part of the culture?

The former may be more conservative because they are close to cause and effect and the forces of nature, likely to take care of their own and solve problems themselves or with the help of family and friends, while the latter, many of whom are, in my experience, trust fund babies who play at being close to nature, but who are really no different than their counterparts in the cities.

July 17, 2007 7:09 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

I mean the former. The latter are a product of modern day "lifestyle" thinking. I am curious not only regarding today's "red-state/blue state" thinking, but looking back through history. This seems to be a persistent pattern since the rise of cities.

July 17, 2007 7:27 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

They aren't. Ever heard of jacquerie?

They are harder to organize, though.

July 17, 2007 9:32 AM  
Blogger Bret said...

Well, in recent times (i.e. the last century), we went from 50 percent of the population working in agriculture to 3 percent. Only the most conservative of conservatives were gonna forego all the new opportunities and stay on the farm.

Also, I suspect, it harder to hear god over the traffic noise in the cities.

July 17, 2007 1:11 PM  
Blogger erp said...

Perhaps city people feel more helpless and insecure not being able to meet their needs themselves and are willing to give over their sovereignty to the state in order to feel secure. It brings to mind Aesop's fable, City Mouse/Country Mouse.

July 17, 2007 1:54 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Also, conservative about what? Religion? Politics? Marriage customs?

When I say 'harder to organize,' I mean merely that, ordinarily, things movemore slowly in dispersed populations. In Mackay's title 'Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, the word 'crowd' is significant.

Fads and fashions change more slowly in dispersed populations, but that is not the same as 'being conservative.'

R.L. Fox pointed out, in 'Pagans and Christians,' that up to the time when Constantine imposed Christianity, it had made almost no impact in the rural parts of the Roman Empire.

There are times, though, when old religion is swept away in the countryside by enthusiasm. In our history, the famous examples are Cane Ridge and the Burned-over District.

It's also the case that there was a strong rural socialist movement during the 19th c. Few political organizations were more radical than The Grange.

The rural insurrection during the milk strike in Iowa in the 1930s was another famous example of rural incendiarism and revolutionary change.

Huey Long's constituency was largely rural and radical.

July 17, 2007 7:30 PM  
Blogger Bryan Appleyard said...

More to lose.

July 18, 2007 4:18 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

I think you hit on it. Conservatism is a hard thing to define across time and geography. Today's emphasis on free market economics isn't a good gauge of conservatism in the past.

I was reading a history of the Reformation when the idea for the post came to me. After the death of King Edward, it was the common folk who backed the Catholic Queen Mary over Jane Grey, and in France it was largely the nobles and townsfolk who fell in with the Huguenots.

I'm thinking of other, more modern episodes. In Romania after Ceaucescu, the next ruler (I forget his name) would truck in gangs of rural tought with bats to break up protests against his regime by students and city types. The kind of conservatism that seems to go with being rural is better defined by a respect for authority and authoritarians.

Maybe it's like Bryan said. Revolutions that are started by city folk often bring war to the countryside. If you lose a job in the city you can find another one . In the country if you are displaced from your land, you just can't plop yourself down onto another parcel of land very easily. Your fate is tied to the land in a way that doesn't apply to the city dweller. So change is more likely to bring bad than good.

July 18, 2007 4:59 AM  
Blogger erp said...

Looks like we're all laboring under our own definition of "conservative." It's always a good idea to define our terms when starting a discussion. My conservative isn't someone who wants to return to an idealized past, but someone who wants to manage his/her own life and only give over to governmental bodies those things which individuals obviously can't determine for themselves. See our constitution for an excellent example of what government should and shouldn't do for us.

Duck is so correct in his observation that city people can more easily change employment, so as to continue to sustain their livelihood while county people can't just plop on somebody's else's land if they're displaced and neither can those who provide services for them find other customers in their rural communities. OTOH, rural folk are more easily able to sustain themselves in the face of calamity because they're more likely to know animal husbandry and the domestic arts than city dwellers who must rely on purchasing food and other necessary items.

Very nice string. It's good to get away from politics once in a while.

July 18, 2007 6:15 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

erp's view is a more polite statement of my description of peasants as anarchists.

Although I hesitate to say anything good about E.P. Thompson, his 'Whigs and Hunters: The Origin of the Black Act' is an interesting study of how rural elites and rural commoners colluded to subvert law. (The reviewer at Amazon called this book a 'seminal work' in resource conservation!)

July 18, 2007 9:29 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

If by anarchist you mean people who disavow the legitimacy of non-local rulers, I might agree somewhat. Their loyalties tend to lie closer to home. But peasant rebellions are more the exception than the rule, and have tended to arise when times were especially grim or when the rulers were exceptionally demanding.

Another aspect of conservatism that applies to rural communitiesis social (sexual) conservatism. City folks have seemingly always been known for taking more liberties in sexual relations than rural folk. This probably has a lot to do with land inheritance, but moreso to do with the practice of arranging marriages to cement inter-familial/clan bonds as well as the perceived uselessness of female children and the need to be able to dowry them off.

July 18, 2007 9:51 AM  
Blogger monix said...

I can't find any statistics to support it, Duck, but I would think incest and inbreeding are rural and not urban problems.

July 18, 2007 10:35 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

Yes, but those are traditional features of rural life, so they are conservative in that sense. Note the prevalence of cousin marriages among south Asian Muslim immigrants to Europe.

That's why it's so hard to define a term like conservatism across time. Some of our modern notions of "family values" fly in the face of more ancient, traditional values like polygamy and inbreeding. I think that our modern conservative notion of individuality and self reliance are very untraditional from that perspective also. Traditional rural cultures were much more collectivized than modern American farm communities.

July 18, 2007 11:22 AM  
Blogger erp said...

Incest wasn't considered a sin in ancient times. I don't know anything about the subject in biblical times, but wonder if it wasn't considered much an issue then either and even in the recent past, it was probably as much practiced in the horrendous living conditions of the early industrial age as in rural backwaters.

Our modern cities and boondocks bear little resemblance to those of the bad-old-days, so now we can choose the peace of the country or the excitement of the city, satisfying our yens moving back and forth from one to the other as we choose.

July 18, 2007 1:29 PM  

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