Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Hamilton Cravens


In the 1920s and 1930s, leading commentators on American culture began to express deep concern over the rate and direction of social change. As the urban-industrial order came to dominate the cultural landscape, many schools of thought arose in opposition. Some groups constituting this cultural minority position focused on what they referred to as the "small community," as an alternative to the dominant cultural paradigm. The small community, usually in the form of the small town, had traditionally been the leading type of settlement in America. During the first third of the twentieth century, small communitarians tried to resist the movement of American society away from a predominantly rural culture to one increasingly driven and shaped by urban-led culture. Southern Agrarians, decentralists, regionalists, proponents of the TVA and greenbelt towns, subsistence homestead advocates, Henry Ford, Catholic ruralists, and assorted people intent on going back-to-the-land all opposed the transformation of the small community milieu from a majority position in American culture to a substantial, but nevertheless, minority position;While much of the opposition to the developing urban-industrial order lost its focus during the period of 1940 to 1960, a remaining tiny minority of cultural critics continued to resist further marginalization of the small community. New groups of regionalists, social scientists, agrarian and utopian communitarians studied, wrote, and talked about how the small community could be revitalized, and in the process, how a new balance could be established between the locale and the larger territory. Some of their themes echoed the previous period, such as decentralization, regional authorities, help to small farmers, planning at all societal levels, and cooperative enterprises, while newer concepts involved community study groups, greater use of adult education, and area development centers, increasingly funded by states;The actions of the small communitarians in the forties and fifties linked them to the cultural reformers of the twenties and thirties, and the anti-establishment protesters and radicals of the sixties and seventies whose message about community has turned into eager and renewed efforts toward the maintenance of quality of life in locales, still threatened by a highly centralized mass society.



Digital Repository @ Iowa State University,

Copyright Owner

Philip Jeffrey Nelson



Proquest ID


File Format


File Size

376 pages