Wendell Berry’s new essay collection, Another Turn of the Crank, gives definition to broad political views that the author has previously left obscure. Regarding foreign trade, for example, he asks: “How can any nation or region justify the destruction of a local productive capacity for the sake of foreign trade?” Berry indicts both the liberals’ affection for “a big central government” and the conservatives’ attachment to “a supranational economy.” Concluding that “the old political alignments have become virtually useless,” he endorses an emergent “party of local community,” embracing ranchers, farmers, market gardeners, small business proprietors, religious folk, and conservationists, behind a platform of ecological integrity and the renewal of local economies and communities.

Berry also confronts the issue of abortion. “We are now conducting a sort of general warfare against children,” he writes, a group that “will inherit a diminished, diseased, and poisoned world.” Berry acknowledges the right of a person to control his or her body, but continues: “If you can control your own body only by destroying another person’s body, then control has come much too late. Self-mastery is the appropriate way to control one’s own body, not surgery.”

Sexuality and fertility are naturally joined. Berry contends, as is sexuality with the world. He acknowledges the argument that a fetus is not a child until it can live outside the womb, but adds: “I am aware also that every creature is surrounded by such questions of dependency and viability all its life. If we are unworthy to live as long as we are dependent on life-supporting conditions, then none of us has any rights. And I would not try to convince any farmer or gardener that the planted seed newly sprouted is not a crop.”

Berry notes that there are certain situations that would justify an abortion, and he insists that opposition to the violence of abortion must logically lead to the rejection of violence against those who are born and against the world into which they are born. Yet he concludes: “The issue ultimately turns on one question: Is a human fetus a human being? I believe that it is. Anybody who believes that it is not must say what on earth it might be.”