THE VILLAGERS by Richard Critchfield


Changed Values, Altered Lives: The Closing of the Urban-Rural Gap
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 A thought-provoking examination of the global decline of villages and its implications for urban societies. Critchfield (Those Days, 1986, etc.), building on his past studies of rural life, maintains that the traditional village structure--seen here in the countrysides of Poland, Mexico, Korea, and elsewhere--has been steadily eroding under the pressure of technological change. The Green Revolution of the 1960s, the mechanization of agriculture, and the explosion in global communications have led to an exodus of villagers from the land-- the most significant step in human history, avers the author, since human beings left the hunter-gatherer stage for a settled agrarian existence. Critchfield arrived at these villages early enough to witness agricultural techniques and social organization, little altered over thousands of years, marching to the death knell of changing economics and weakening religious and cultural ties. He warns that without a global reservoir of villagers, urban societies (which, with their low birth rates, are seldom self-replenishing) will face depopulation. He excoriates the World Bank for refusing to subsidize much-needed fertilizer for Africa, whose villages are alone in not sharing the bounty of the Green Revolution. Critchfield saves his most dire predictions and charges for his final section, in which he lambastes mass culture for its lack of substance and spirituality. Some readers may find his arguments here tired and specious, but it is hard to argue with his contention that the family and cultural values lost in the exodus from rural agricultural villages have not been replaced in modern, urban society. Often lyrical and evocative in its discussion of village life, although occasionally bogged down in minute details. For the patient reader, a rewarding and insightful appraisal of a major turning point in human history. (16 pages b&w photos)

Pub Date: Nov. 14th, 1994
ISBN: 0-385-42050-1
Page count: 512pp
Publisher: Anchor
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1994