Ralph Borsodi accomplished an incredible list of things during his long and productive life. He practiced what he preached, creating a number of organizations where his ideas were developed.
Borosdi's legacy was largely lost but has been restored by Transition Centre. His work we find critical to developing resilient communities and the leadership to help form them.
You can find my recent Hermitix (UK) podcast interview about the Borsodi's life and work at this link.
In 1929 Borsodi published This Ugly Civilization, in which he addressed the liabilities and injustices of a highly centralized industrial economy. There were three basic themes in this book:
1. A critique of modern industrial culture.
2. Achieving personal economic independence – homesteading.
3. Enhancing individual potential – education.
A ninetieth anniversary edition of This Ugly Civilization, with a new Introduction by Bill Sharp, is available at Amazon (Link)
In 1934, at the depths of the Great Depression, Borsodi established his School of Living near Suffern, New York. There he provided a compressive program to train homesteaders. He created the first of which became his model of community land trust. Borsodi wrote 15 books, numerous articles, and was a popular speaker.
Borsodi’s School of Living, prior to World War II, was an extensive enterprise with a long list of publications, a number of organized divisions with a variety of functions, providing practical training and adult educational seminar series about achieving a quality life.
Following World War II, Borsodi established two new school of living centers, one in Ohio that continued the homesteading theme, and one in Florida where he developed an experimental university. He then spent several years in India working with Gandhian agrarian educators. Returning to the US, to settling in New Hampshire, he completed his series of books on education, developed a local currency and further developed his model community land trust model there.
Of greatest importance was Borsodi’s seminar problem-centered program for adult education. He first offered seminars his School of Living, wrote a series of three book, formed an experimental university graduate program, continued that work in India to formalized a curriculum and completed a final volume of his system, Seventeen Problems of Man and Society in 1968. He was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of New Hampshire for his work.
Transition Centre was restored much of Borsodi’s legacy and has adopted much of it for our learning and leadership model.
Two books were produced:
Ralph Borsodi, A Confident Future: The Green Revolution
Ralph Borsodi was a pioneer and leader in a wide variety of areas related to personal independence. He was a pioneering consumer advocate and noted critic of the shortcomings of urban industrial society. He was a leader of a movement that opposed the centralization of industry, government, education and other social institutions. Over the course of his long and productive life, he laid much of the foundation for what we today call the sustainability movement. He was a pioneer in going back-to-the-land. He founded two homesteading communities and inspired others. He and family created a model and successful homestead. He was a leader in organic gardening, healthy living, domestic production, homebuilding and many related things.
Borsodi founded the School of Living to provide skills, motivation and a philosophy for an alternative, agrarian lifestyle. The central idea of the School was not “instruction in country living and in folk arts and handicrafts; nor the development of a better method of dealing with unemployment; nor the solution of the housing problem,” wrote Borsodi. “It was the scientific validity of decentralization –of the truth of the conviction slowly burned into my consciousness … that the progress and centralization for which modern industrial man has been taught he should live, was based upon a tragic error – a tragic misunderstanding of the true meaning of science – and that a whole new program of education has to be developed which would substitute for the prevailing mistaken objective in living, an end or aim which was right, proper and, as I have come to think of it, normal.”
Borsodi and close associate Mildred Loomis lead School of Living programs for a half century. The tagline “Green Revolution” proposes a robust, alternative, agrarian lifestyle with families providing much of their own needs. It is close to nature. It has a strong family base. Borsodi made a solid economic case for this lifestyle – a new economic model. He also proposed a decentralized economy with fewer and smaller, locally owned, factories. Toward the end of his life, he perfected his community land trust and local currency models.
As the current global economy becomes less stable and resources become depleted, this model lays the foundation for a post-industrial, safe, secure and stable society. It is not a return to primitivism but a balanced model employing appropriate technology – another field Borsodi pioneer. It would be a zero-carbon, low energy but high quality of life. This book is the first of two volumes, the second of which, Ralph Borsodi, A Confident Future: Learning and Living, covers his seminal work in adult, life-long education. These two books seek to restore Borsodi’s extraordinary legacy and lay the foundation for further development of his system that is being pursued by this author and colleagues.
Ralph Borsodi, A Confident Future: The Green Revolution: https://archive.org/details/ralph-borsodi-a-confident-future-the-green-revolution
Ralph Borsodi, A Confident Future: Learning and Living
Ralph Borsodi worked for a just, safe and secure lifestyle, focusing on the individual, the family and the community. That objective requires a robust, life-long, educational program. That program is the primary subject of this book. This book also covers Borsodi’s economic system, his advocacy of decentralism and much of his publication history. He devoted much of his long life to developing educational programs to help people achieve these objectives.
In 1934 Borsodi established his School of Living where he offered both training in practical skills and a program of adult, lifelong education designed to bring out the best of each of us. He developed a seminal problem- centered framework for education and the organization of the accumulated knowledge of humankind. These problems he defined as universal – problems all people around the Earth and through all time have worked to solve. He offered seminars to help people clarify their values and beliefs, and understanding the world, nature and human nature. He advocated a lifelong education around a study of the collective wisdom of humanity as a whole. His seminars also included the practical problems of life – earning a livelihood, building community, organizing collective efforts, good heath, the family. He founded an experimental community university graduate program focused on and further developing his problem-centered framework of education.
Borsodi published a series of books including Education and Living (1948), a landmark text of development of the optimum individual, family and community. Education and Living he asserted is a decentralist handbook. The objective is strong, localized communities and economy. He wrote that Education and Living “is nothing less than an effort to explain not only modern man’s failure to achieve the good life … but also to outline the manner in which he might learn how to live like a normal human being.” The system is not merely a method for solving problems. It is a teaching tool that develops the capacity for living a good life. Underlying this method is developing that quality mindedness Borsodi wrote about in This Ugly Civilization (1929). It is a program for seeking the essence of what it means to live as a human being. Invited for an extended stay in India to work with Gandhian agrarian educators he wrote The Education of the Whole Man (1963) which presented the theoretical foundation of his system. This book provided a university-level curriculum to prepare leaders for an agrarian renaissance, a Green Revolution. That was followed by his masterwork, Seventeen Problems of Man and Society, with which he provided an introductory text to the universal problems of living. Borsodi was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of New Hampshire for his work in education and economics.
This is the second of two volumes about Borsodi’s work, the first, Ralph Borsodi, A Confident Future: The Green Revolution, focuses on Borsodi’s pioneering new agrarian program to develop self-sufficient homesteads and communities. These two books seek to restore Borsodi’s extraordinary legacy and lay the foundation for further development of his system that is being pursued by this author and colleagues.
Ralph Borsodi, A Confident Future: Learning and Living: https://archive.org/details/ralph-borsodi-learning-and-living-book
These books can be downloaded at no cost.
A third book, which succinctly summarizes Borsodi’s key ideas and practices, The Essential Ralph Borsodi, has been drafted and is moving towards publication.