Because a textbook in general rural sociology must necessarily be a survey of rural life, it cannot devote more than one or two chapters to topics that may constitute the whole subject matter of a number of specialized books and of whole college courses. Even so, it should deal with all important structural and functional aspects of rural society, all major geographic areas of the country, and all major problems of rural life. This book attempts to do just that.
It is divided into five parts, each containing several chapters. The two chapters of Part I serve as an introduction to this study of rural sociology. The first chapter gives the background of the field of rural sociology as a special science, while the second chapter describes the evolution of the American rural society.
Part II consists of nine chapters, each dealing with a major social institution, organization, or agency of American rural society. With respect to content, this section is entitled Rural Organization. The emphasis, however, is not entirely on organization, for there are chapters also on rural health, rural welfare, and rural recreation and art, and considerable attention is given to rural problems and their solution.
Part III consists of seven chapters, each of which contributes to an overall picture of the American rural population. They deal with the levels and standards of living of farmers; with owners, tenants, and laborers; and with the differentials in rural society. These chapters also include the characteristics of rural population, its occupational patterns and trends.
Part IV is unique in a book on rural sociology because it discusses seven different type-farming areas of the United States as if each were a cultural region. It is recognized that no one of these seven areas contains an integral culture of its own, but since the cotton, corn, or wheat belts of the United States are larger and contain more population than some whole nations, and since there are marked differences in rural life among these great geographic areas, each one of them warrants integral and separate treatment. Furthermore, anthropologists rather than sociologists are the social scientists who have made most of the cultural-area studies, and they have notably neglected the study of contemporary rural life. The nine chapters of Part IV, therefore, could well be considered a start toward the development of the cultural anthropology of American rural life.
Part V contains three chapters which deal with the relations of farmers to the great society, with their attitudes toward modern life and events, their part in public affairs, and their own large class organizations. It also discusses changes whose directions have marked American agriculture and rural life as a part of all American society.