Freed-Market Anarchist Considers Wendell Berry

For many years, I have encountered repeated references to Wendell Berry, the venerable farmer-sage of Kentucky: novelist, poet, essayist, philosopher and environmental activist. And I lazily assumed his writings to be in the category of things that are Good For You, but probably dull, like stodgy health food. But then I came across The Art of the Commonplace, a collection of Berry’s essays on what he calls “agrarianism”, and I found his writing electrifying. Berry has a well-thought-out, far-reaching, passionately articulated analysis of what is wrong with the prevailing political/economic/social system in America, which extends with minimal adjustments to much of the rest of the world. It’s different from the sort of political analysis typically seen at C4SS.org – not incompatible with it, but, I would say, complementary to it. I think it’s therefore fruitful to examine Berry’s political/economic/social philosophy from a freed-market anarchist (FMA) perspective, noting the substantial points of agreement, but also the areas where Berry’s agrarianism perhaps contributes something missing from FMA discourse, and vice-versa.

The Art of the Commonplace consists of essays dating from 1969 to 2002, on a range of topics including racial justice, sexual politics, the arts, religion, as well as Berry’s more central concerns: farming, land use, environmentalism, and economics. But despite the fact that many of the writings date from thirty-some years ago, all of them remain surprisingly timely. Running through them all is a single unifying premise: no society can remain healthy if it fails to care for the soil and water from which its food comes. And Berry presents compelling arguments that many superficially unrelated social ills can be traced to this central sin (yes, that’s Berry’s term for it). The problem lies in a constellation of attitudes, practices and technologies that Berry labels “industrialism”.

Read the complete article by Robert Kirchner at Center for a Stateless Society.


Wendell Berry Supports Senate Candidate

Wendell and Tanya Berry, along with Mary Berry and Steve Smith have written a letter to the Louisville Courier-Journal in which they express their support of Democratic U. S. Senate candidate Sellus Wilder. He is running against incumbent Republican Rand Paul. The Berrys and Smith write, in part,

We approve of his platform, which we know that he is offering as a promise to his constituents to try in good faith to do what he has told them he will try to do. We are particularly grateful for his commitment to clean soil, clean water and clean air, though he understands the long-term difficulty of that commitment.

See the complete letter HERE.


More on "The Seer: A Portrait of Wendell Berry"

The film isn’t preachy, it’s showing you that there are people willing to do what is manageable, and what is best for the land and their families.  They describe the desire for farming coming from the passion of successive generations.  There are a lot of threats to this way of life, some unavoidable without a change in our culture.  But if anyone can persuade us, Wendell Berry might be the one.   THE SEER is a thoughtful documentary, told with the same directness as Berry’s writing, with enough hope that you want to see and know and be more.

Read it all at The Matinee.


NPR on "The Seer: A Portrait of Wendell Berry"

Wendell Berry's condemnation of modern farming has brought him back into the public eye in recent years. He despises how big farming has become, and how technology-driven.

Dunn's film goes deeply into the business of farming. She speaks with migrant farm workers and big-time farmers, deeply in debt. "Ten years ago I would have never dreamed it would cost what it does to put a crop out now," says one farmer, with a haunted look in his eyes. "It's just crazy what it costs. And sometimes is gets a little hard to sleep at night. Toward the end of the year, all the crops are in the ground, all the money's spent, and we just need a good crop to pay the banks back."

Dunn replays video of a speech that Wendell Berry gave in 1974. Already at that point, he was arguing that when big farms grow and small ones disappear, communities are destroyed, along with the values that sustain those communities — values like loyalty, neighborliness, kindness.

"I don't think that you can love those old values, and love what has come to be American agriculture at the same time," he told his audience.

Read it (and hear it) all at NPR.


Award Given to Wendell Berry Interview

On November 8, 2014, Regent alumnus Chad Wriglesworth sat down with prolific author Wendell Berry to discuss work, sustainability, and eternity. The conversation, which took place at the South Atlantic Modern Language Association Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, was first published in the Spring 2015 edition of CRUX.

We Are Still Near the Beginning: A Conversation with Wendell Berry has been awarded First Place in the Interview Article category of the Evangelical Press Association's 2016 Higher Goals Awards. Please join us in congratulating Wendell Berry, Chad Wriglesworth, and the editorial staff of CRUX for this significant achievement.

Read more at Regent College.


Wendell Berry to be Honored, April 23

American Novelist Wendell Berry will be awarded the 2016 Sidney Lanier Prize for Southern Literature this month.  The Center for Southern Studies is set to present this prize April 23 in celebration of Berry’s contributions to Southern literature.
 
A prize presentation will be held April 23 at 1 p.m. in the President’s Dining Room.  There, Berry will present the audience with a reading as well as sign books.

“For several years, students who took Mercer’s First-Year Seminar classes read Mr. Berry’s poem ‘Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front.’ In that poem, he exhorts the reader to live freely and love the world. The poem, and Mr. Berry’s life, exemplify many of the ideals that Mercer aspires to uphold, and his prolific career as a writer, poet and activist have thoroughly enriched the tradition of Southern literature,” said David A. Davis, chair of the Lanier Prize Committee and associate professor of English at Mercer.

Se more at Mercer Cluster.


Another Review of "The Seer: A Portrait of Wendell Berry"

Austin-based Cinematographer Lee Daniel – perhaps best known for his collaborations with director Richard Linklater on films like Dazed and Confused, Before Sunrise and Boyhood – just won a Special Jury Recognition for Cinematography at the 2016 SXSW Festival for his work on The Seer, and it is well deserved. A movie about the destruction of America’s fading heartland and traditional farming practices, The Seer owes much of its raw power to Daniel’s stunning shots of Kentucky’s rural landscapes and portraits of its worn-out denizens. Co-directors Laura Dunn and Jef Sewell (director and producer on The Unforeseen, which Daniel also shot) do a fine job assembling footage for this elegiac cri de cœur, but the movie really belongs to Daniel’s images.

Read it all at Hammer to Nail.


Wendell Berry to Keynote Books Conference

WB Lex

The 2016 Books-in-Progress Conference, featuring award-winning author Wendell Berry (World LostJayber Crow, and Hannah Coulter, among others) is slated for June 2-4, 2016. The conference will offer craft & business workshops led by authors Silas House, A.J. Verdelle, Marcia Thornton Jones, Writer’s Digest editor Jessica Strawser, and more.  Enjoy small break-out sessions & personal attention. Topics include place, character, revision, marketing your book, children’s literature, and more.

See more information at The Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning, Lexington, KY.