Many Americans who trace their roots to communities similar to those of Appalachian Kentucky are becoming aware of the extent to which the problems of such communities represent the price paid for keeping alive traditions that are beginning to be missed in the wider society. Using fresh data and ingenious ways of letting local people speak for themselves, Mary Jean Bowman and H. Dudley Plunkett have thrown light on how isolated, small-town people respond to the encroachment of modern America, with its organized economy, mass communications media, reliance on more and more schooling, and persistent drive for social change.
The study reveals a pervasive tension between old ways and new aspirations. Sometimes the new is in alliance with the national culture, but often tensions between regional and national ways are acute. The authors put little faith in naïve attempts to engineer social change in Appalachia—attempts they suggest are based on dubious cultural assumptions and misconceived strategies. This study of one region in one nation can be a model for the study of similar patterns of change elsewhere.