Our Rural Heritage: The Social Psychology of Rural Development

Our Rural Heritage: The Social Psychology of Rural Development

Our Rural Heritage: The Social Psychology of Rural Development

Our Rural Heritage: The Social Psychology of Rural Development

Excerpt

A famous teacher, when a student came to him with an idea, is said to have asked three questions: "What is your idea?" "What are your reasons for it?" "What of it?" These questions I think a reader has a right to ask of an author. Though this work is primarily descriptive and analytical, I propose here to give the reader some hints that will serve in interpreting the facts and analyses presented.

What is the purpose of this work? So far as I know it is the first attempt that has been made to explain historically the attitudes and beliefs of a considerable part of the rural population of the United States. The usual historical material has to do with outstanding events, political parties, policies of government; it is the material that is found most abundantly in the documentary sources. Yet historians fall back on "public opinion" for explanations of their material, without explaining how public opinion explains it. This work aims to dissect various elements that have entered into the public opinion of the rural population of New York State. The elements will not be found to be essentially different in Illinois, Iowa or Minnesota, for the attitudes and beliefs of New York were carried to those and other western states, and the history of New York was there lived over again.

Our method of treatment is that of a cross sectional description of attitudes and beliefs in three successive periods. It is in a sense, therefore, historical. But the description is not made to centre around particular historical events, as the anti-masonic crusade or the slavery controversy. That is, accredited historical events are not taken as points of departure, for the attitudes and beliefs of a population are a continuing force and what we call historical events are, in part, these attitudes and beliefs attaining an emotional intensity under stress of some crisis, and effectuating significant group action. So the point of approach is from the continuing forces, not the events.

It is evident, then, why this work is entitled The Social Psychology of Rural Development. It is primarily a psychological study. There are other aspects of rural development than the psychological, but we are concerned with the psychological processes of development.

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