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Wendell Berry has never been afraid to speak up for the dispossessed. The Need to Be Whole continues the work he began in The Hidden Wound (1970) and The Unsettling of America (1977), demanding a careful exploration of this hard, shared truth: The wealth of the mighty few governing this nation has been built on the unpaid labor of others.
Without historical understanding of this practice of dispossession—the displacement of Native peoples, the destruction of both the land and land-based communities, ongoing racial division—we are doomed to continue industrialism’s assault on both the natural world and every sacred American ideal. Berry writes, “To deal with so great a problem, the best idea may not be to go ahead in our present state of unhealth to more disease and more product development. It may be that our proper first resort should be to history: to see if the truth we need to pursue might be behind us where we have ceased to look.” If there is hope for us, this is it: that we honestly face our past and move into a future guided by the natural laws of affection. This book furthers Mr. Berry’s part in what is surely our country’s most vital conversation.