The twentieth century was a time in American history when virtually everyone in a position of power or influence - from Ivy League intellectuals and Washington politicians to the members of the local Chamber of Commerce - sought an answer to the problems created by "progress" in more and more "progress", a faster and faster race to the bottom of the spiral of their neverending war with nature. In such a time, the "backwardness" of the South became an advantage. I'll Take My Stand, first published in 1930, collects twelve essays that cut deeply against the prevailing grain, calling for an anti-industrial counter-revolution and a reconnection with the land. In complimentary but not identical ways the authors sought the development of more human ways of living, emerging from their own integral humanism, an awareness that a truly human life cannot be founded on mechanism with culture added, but must begin with a humane foundation.
Any book rooted in the Old South must face the issue of race, and it is here, unsurprisingly, that I'll Take My Stand has its greatest problems. Generally, blacks are treated as invisible, or worse, as the unwitting dupes of Northern interests. The history of slavery is revised so as to absolve the South of all moral responsibility, with the Civil War cast as a simple power struggle between centralizing Northern interests and the provincialist South. Fortunately, the authors' racial attitudes (which some of them, at least, later revised), although distracting, do not effect the power of the book's central arguments. Those are of interest to anyone who shares in the perpetual hope that intelligence may yet conquer greed.