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The Lies of the Land

Seeing Rural America for What It Is—and Isn’t

A new history that boldly challenges the idea of a rural American crisis.
It seems everyone has an opinion about rural America. Is it gripped in a tragic decline? Or is it on the cusp of glorious revival? Is it the key to understanding America today? Steven Conn argues that we’re missing the real question: Is rural America even a thing? No, says Conn, who believes we see only what we want to see in the lands beyond the suburbs—fantasies about moral (or backward) communities, simpler (or repressive) living, and what it means to be authentically (or wrongheadedly) American. If we want to build a better future, Conn argues, we must accept that these visions don’t exist and never did.

In The Lies of the Land, Conn shows that rural America—so often characterized as in crisis or in danger of being left behind—has actually been at the center of modern American history, shaped by the same forces as everywhere else in the country: militarization, industrialization, corporatization, and suburbanization. Examining each of these forces in turn, Conn invites us to dispense with the lies and half-truths we’ve believed about rural America and to pursue better solutions to the very real challenges shared all across our nation.

320 pages | 4 halftones | 6 x 9

Geography: Cultural and Historical Geography

History: American History, Environmental History

Table of Contents

Preface: That Empty Feeling
Introduction: Crisis and Myth

Part I: Militarized Space

Chapter 1: Engineering the Landscape
Chapter 2: From Rural Community to Army Town
Chapter 3: The Cold War Comes to the UP
Postscript: Addicted to the Military

Part II: Industrial Spaces

Chapter 4: Factories Instead of Farms
Chapter 5: Cars in the Cornfields

Part III. Rural Inc.

Chapter 6: Who’s Afraid of Big?
Chapter 7: Chains ’R’ Us

Part IV. The Suburbanization of Rural America

Chapter 8: Creating Post-rural Space
Chapter 9: The Politics of Post-rural Complaint

Conclusion: Places vs. Spaces


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