Planning Democracy: Agrarian Intellectuals and the Intended by Jess Gilbert

By Jess Gilbert

Late within the Nineteen Thirties, the U.S. division of Agriculture organize a countrywide community of neighborhood agencies that joined farmers with public directors, adult-educators, and social scientists. the purpose was once to localize and unify prior New Deal courses relating soil conservation, farm creation regulate, tenure safeguard, and different reforms, and by means of 1941 a few 200,000 farm humans have been concerned. on the other hand, conservative anti–New purchasers killed the winning application the following 12 months. This publication reexamines the era’s agricultural coverage and tells the missed tale of the hot Deal agrarian leaders and their visionary principles approximately land, democratization, and revolutionary social change.

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The phrase, though, probably strikes people today as paradoxical, if not outright self-contradictory. For how can planning, a seemingly expert function, be joined with democracy, which connotes citizen action at the grass roots? This is indeed the question, one that the agrarian intellectuals spent their political lives answering, even embodying, in the policies they conceived and carried out. They fully realized the significance of the problems involved. How to pursue national planning while respecting local control?

PhD ’26 Wisc. ag economist, BAE *Midwestern Protestant college. Their Positions in the New Deal: AAA = Agricultural Adjustment Administration, USDA BAE = Bureau of Agricultural Economics, USDA RA = Resettlement Administration (not in USDA until 1937) Notes 1. S. Vice President, 1941–44. 2. AAA Wheat Section Head, 1933; Subsistence Homesteads Division Director, 1933–34; Assistant Secretary of Agriculture, 1934–35; Undersecretary of Agriculture, 1936–40; Federal Extension Director, 1940–52. 3. AAA Specialty Crops Section Head, 1933; AAA Program Planning Division Head, 1933–34; AAA Administrator, 1936–38; BAE Chief, 1938–46.

The other three individuals led major action-research units within the BAE during the late New Deal and helped formulate and implement the cooperative planning that lies at the core of this book: Lewis C. Gray, Land Economics Division and Assistant BAE chief for Land Utilization; Carl C. Taylor, Farm Population and Rural Welfare Division; and Bushrod W. Allin, State and Local Planning Division, which devised and carried out the planning effort. These three units both conducted policy research and engaged in programmatic action on the ground during the Third New Deal.

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