After Agrarian Virtue

34 Pages Posted: 16 Sep 2019 Last revised: 2 Jul 2020

See all articles by James Ming Chen

James Ming Chen

Michigan State University - College of Law

Date Written: September 7, 2019


What constitutes agrarian virtue? Across human or even geological history, agrarian virtue subsists in the sustained production of food, fiber, and fuel without the exhaustion of finite resources or the undue disruption of evolutionary processes on which human survival depends. Contemporary agricultural law, however, often emphasizes the expressive self-actualization of food preferences. This natural sublimation of economic independence from producers to consumers epitomizes agrarian vice. Restoration of agrarian virtue demands not telos (τέλος) in its purposive sense, but rather acceptance of kyklos (κύκλος), or cyclicality in its full economic and ecological sense.

Keywords: virtue, vice, philosophy, agricultural law, food law, Alasdair McIntyre, A Canticle for Leibowitz, Anthropocene, genetically modified organisms, CRISPR/Cas9, T.S. Eliot

Suggested Citation

Chen, James Ming, After Agrarian Virtue (September 7, 2019). Indiana Law Review, volume 53, pp. 1-34 (2020), Available at SSRN: or

James Ming Chen (Contact Author)

Michigan State University - College of Law ( email )

318 Law College Building
East Lansing, MI 48824-1300
United States

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