Home Economics, A Review

I recently read Home Economics by Wendell Berry for either the second or third time. I am a Berry fan and this is one of his best books, in my opinion. It contains fourteen essays on a variety of subjects including national defense, higher education, and the family farm. He speaks from where he is: a farmer dedicated to the preservation of sustainable agriculture. This does not mean that he speaks only to those like him. In fact I see his wide appeal as one of his main strengths. His message begins with the farm but extrapolates to a national and international level. He is obviously widely read and has created a cohesive and (to me) convincing view of our world.
His writing style is clear and at times funny. He is emotional without being maudlin; respectful of the past without sentimentalizing it. He is realistic without being pessimistic.

I do not always entirely agree with him. At times he skirts a little too close to pantheism for my taste. While I agree for the most part with his assessment of higher education I feel that ignoring the smaller private university in some measure reduces the impact of his argument when he discusses higher education. However, I recognize that the main thrust of this discussion is based on the state supported public universities.

All in all, I find Berry’s world view and writing most refreshing and convincing. Home Economics is an excellent read for anyone although most especially those interested in agriculture.

“It is this balance of the natural and the human that makes a landscape look comfortable and comforting, and this is the work of an old kind of mind, of long attention and familiarity–a mind as different as possible from the industrial or moder mind, which comes into a place, aware only of its own demands, imposing its own geometry.”
~Wendell Berry, Home Economics, “Irish Journal”

“Education in the true sense, of course, is an enablement to serve–both the living human community in its natural household or neighborhood and the precious cultural possessions that the living community inherits or should inherit.”
~Wendell Berry, Home Economics, “Higher Education and Home Defense”

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