Arthur E. Morgan is an author known as much for his writings as for his experiments in community and education which influenced many in the new economics movement. His books appear in the collections of Martha Shaw, the MANAS Journal, George Benello, Richard Bliss, and the library’s general collection.
Henry Geiger, the editor of MANAS, commented that “Arthur Morgan’s thinking is truly timeless…a source of inspiration.”
Arthur Morgan is often remembered in history as one of the directors of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), one of F.D.R.’s Depression era organizations that sought to use hydroelectric dams to bring electricity and economic development to the rural Tennessee Valley. In his work with the T.V.A. he came to focus on the importance of the community, especially the small, local community, as the foundation of both a sustainable economy and a democratic way of life. In the introduction to The Community of the Future and the Future of Community, he writes:
“There is a feeling toward human affairs, especially in America, that what is small or local is unimportant. We see bigness as a measure of significance. From this point of view the community, being small, can be of little consequence. It deals with the common affairs of life, with the detailed and the particular. Yet it’s details and particulars which inform us most directly of the nature and the realities of life.”
This focus on community led him to found the Celo Community in western North Carolina whose model of land ownership was a precursor to the Community Land Trust model and Community Services Inc. and the Fellowship of Intentional Communities in Yellow Springs, Ohio.
During World War II, Bob Swann, co-founder of the Schumacher Center for a New Economics, was among a group of conscientious objectors (C.O.s ) who participated in a correspondence course while imprisoned. The course was led by Arthur Morgan; one of the key texts Swann and the other C.O.s read and discussed was Morgan’s book The Small Community. Morgan’s ideas about community laid out in this book and in the correspondence course prepared a foundation for Swann and many other C.O. when they were released from prison and turned their efforts towards not just challenging unjust systems but build new, better ones in their place. For as Morgan writes in The Small Community:
“Unless many people live and work in the intimate relationships of community life, there can never emerge a truly unified nation, or a community of mankind. If I do not love my neighbor whom I know, how can I love the human race, which is but an abstraction? If I have not learned to work with a few people, how can I be effective with many?”