As Jonathan Dimbleby notes in his foreward to this work, Conford has done the organic movement a real service here by unearthing (pardon the pun) the centrality of far-right and fascist ideology in the history of the organic movement and the Soil Association itself. Far better, as Dimbleby sagely observes, to wash this dirty laundry in public and admit to a past which needs the disinfectant of sunlight, then to try and hide it in the closet.
Essentially, Conford's work reveals the ethical, political and ideological concerns and ideologies that gave rise to the organic movement in both the UK and the US, as well as Europe to a lesser extent. Today we think that environmental awareness and 'caring for mother earth' is a modern thing - this book reminds us that such thinking was very much in fashion in the inter-war years, but was then mainly a right-wing ideology rather than left-wing as it appears to be today. If you've read Orwell's "Road to Wigan Pier" where he bemoans that socialist ideology is 'machine-orientated' then you'll know what i mean. Orwell was far ahead of his time as a socialist, although not sui generis. Ruskin, William Morris, Arthur Penty and others all preceded him).
This is not a polemical work, but a sober and scholarly approach to the subject that is nevertheless intensely interesting and extremely readable. A real achievement. Conford is clearly a supporter of the organic movement but does not reduce himself or the movement by resorting to paltry cheer-leading. Instead, he strengthens the case for it by admitting a history that has both good and bad parts as all histories have. If you are a supporter of the organic movement and 'can handle the truth' as Jack Nicholson put it, gird your loins and read this book. It isn't pretty, but it is fascinating.
Finally, major kudos to Conford for including such a useful and extensive index - not only a standard index, but an index of names of people and also of institutions and places with brief but informative biopics of them. This was a Godsend.
A five star work.
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