I met the Nearings as a teenager and though we spoke only briefly, their writings and life had a great effect on my thinking. The Nearings were most famous for their book Living the Good Life, which recounted their experiments with subsistence homesteading. It became a bible for the back to the land movement in the late 1960s. But I was more influenced by Scott’s political and social thought, expressed in books like Conscience of a Radical and his autobiography.
Deeply influenced by Tolstoy and the economic theories of Henry George and Simon Patten, Scott Nearing evolved into a socialist, a vegetarian and a pacifist.
Here is a short video clip:
Scott was far from a perfect person and I have never accepted some of his ideas, such as his uncritical support for the Soviet Union and his rejection of technology (something he was inconsistent about - for some reason typewriters were to be avoided in preference to pens, while a truck was a necessity). But overall I believe that the Nearings set an important example as people willing to live out their convictions.
For the five years prior to 1917 Scott taught at the Chautauqua Institution and this summer I am going to give a talk there about his life. I would be interested in anyone who knew the Nearings or has information about them. Please feel free to leave comments.
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