Economics of Eremitism

Wendell Berry, the political/environmental/agrarian writer, cites a 1907 traveler to China who noted that the average agrarian household of twelve was self-sufficient on two and a half acres, using, of course, traditional (i.e., organic) means of farming. Perhaps Berry and his source were not aware of the reclusion movement of ancient China, but the evident life of Tao Chien, for example, certainly confirms the traveler’s observation. The farm and concomitant village were essentially economic units of eremitism, viewed as independent of the palace and the urban environs that constituted the only economic alternative. Cycles of difficult weather, drought, floods, were all possibilities to prepare for, but not as pernicious as were urban equivalents: humiliation, corruption, abuse, and execution.