Revised and Expanded: July 2, 2017
Portions of this article were previously published by the author in the 2016 book,
The Intentioneers’ Bible: Interwoven Stories of the Parallel Cultures of Plenty and Scarcity, currently available only as an ebook on Amazon.com
Portions of this article have been subsequently reprinted in an article by the same title in the Fall 2017 issue number 176 of “Communities: Life in Cooperative Culture.”
With fifty years of cultural experimentation at Twin Oaks Community being celebrated this year, this is a good time to review what has been learned in the Twin Oaks experience of utopian “intentioneering.” While others may come up with additional lessons learned, this writing focuses upon six issues: first, that living in the Twin Oaks’ version of utopia is thought by some to be “too easy;” second, that the optimum population of such communities is so far about 100 adults; third, that a society that does not use money internally is achievable via a labor-credit system; fourth, that in an egalitarian time-based economy domestic labor or “women’s work” can be valued equally with all other labor or “men’s work” including income-generating labor; fifth, that ideological blueprints often conflict with practicality, requiring participatory governance and even dissent and social anarchy to create change; and sixth, that communal childcare in which parents give responsibility for their children to a group of parents and other experienced caregivers does not work, showing the limit of communalism, and resulting in the focus upon collective childcare and the need for the provision of communal “parentcare” instead.
Twin Oaks was begun as an “experimental community” in central Virginia in 1967. After the community’s first five years Kathleen Kinkade, one of the co-founders, published a book about Twin Oaks titled, A Walden Two Experiment, in which she wrote on the first page that, “we are trying to make a new and better society.” Fifty years on it is time to evaluate the Twin Oaks experiment. (Kinkade, 1972, p. 1)
Kat and others used as a blueprint for the design of Twin Oaks Community the utopian novel Walden Two, published in 1948 by the Harvard psychologist B. F. Skinner, in which the author applied his ideas about behavioral science to human society. By the 1960s the book was selling at the rate of up to a quarter-million copies a year! (Altus & Morris, p. 268)
Deborah Altus and Edward Morris explain the origins of B. F. Skinner’s idea of applying behavioral science to utopian fiction in their article titled, “B. F. Skinner’s Utopian Vision: Behind and Beyond Walden Two,” published in a 2004 issue of Contemporary Justice Review. Altus and Morris begin the story by relating a dinner conversation between Skinner and a friend during the spring of 1945. The friend’s son-in-law was returning from military service at the end of World War II and,
“Skinner mused about what young people would do when the war ended.” (Altus & Morris, p. 267)
“What a shame,” Skinner said, “that they would abandon their crusading spirit and come back only to fall into the old lockstep American life—getting a job, marrying, renting an apartment, making a down payment on a car, having a child or two.” When asked what they should do instead, he answered: “They should experiment; they should explore new ways of living, as people had done in the communities of the nineteenth century. … Young people today might have better luck. They could build a culture that would come closer to satisfying human needs than the American way of life.” (B. F. Skinner, 1979, p. 292, quoted in Altus & Morris, pp. 267-8)
As it turned out, it was not so much the “Greatest Generation” that took on communitarian social change work, it was their children in the “Baby Boom Generation,” and those who have followed, while B. F. Skinner was only one of many influences inspiring them.
A number of influences had led Skinner to his utopian idea. He had read about historic American communal societies, including the Shakers and the Oneida Community, he was particularly impressed with the fictional non-monetary economic system that Edward Bellamy had written into his 1888 utopian novel Looking Backward: 2000-1887, and he thought about the dissatisfactions that people experienced in the dominant American culture. (Altus & Morris, p. 268)
“I had seen my wife and her friends struggling to save themselves from domesticity, wincing as they printed ‘housewife’ in those blanks asking for occupation. Our older daughter had just finished first grade, and there is nothing like a first child’s first year in school to turn one’s thoughts to education.” … [Skinner’s] dinner companion insisted that he write down his ideas … [for] his ‘book about an experimental community’.” (B. F. Skinner, 1976, p. v, and 1979, p. 295, quoted in Altus & Morris, p. 268)
In the preface to the 1969 edition of Walden Two Skinner explained why he named his utopian fiction after Henry David Thoreau’s 1854 book, Walden: Or Life in the Woods. He stated that there were five principles that his and Thoreau’s book had in common, being: 1. No way of life is inevitable. Examine your own carefully; 2. If you do not like it, change it; 3. But do not try to change it through political action. Even if you succeed in gaining power, you will not likely be able to use it any more wisely than your predecessors; 4. Ask only to be left alone to solve your problems in your own way; and 5. Simplify your needs. Lean how to be happy with fewer possessions. (Skinner, 1969, p. v, quoted in Altus & Morris, p. 269)
In the preface to the 1976 edition of Walden Two B. F. Skinner explained his concern about human civilization in a world threatened by potential nuclear war, environmental, and other catastrophes. “[E]ither we do nothing and allow a miserable and probably catastrophic future to overtake us, or we use our knowledge about human behavior to create a social environment in which we shall live productive and creative lives and do so without jeopardizing the chances that those who follow us will be able to do the same. Something like a Walden Two would not be a bad start.” (B. F. Skinner, 1976, p. xvi, quoted in Altus & Morris, p. 269)
The behavioral psychologists Deborah Altus at Washburn University, Topeka, Kansas, and Edward Morris at the University of Kansas, Lawrence, explain that, “Skinner’s premises … were no more than naturalism applied to human affairs. Naturalism is the working assumption that behavior is part of nature, and thus is lawful and orderly in its own right, a function of historical and current, environmental and biological, contingencies and contexts. Naturalism is not controversial in science—it works. It is a useful premise. Skinner’s extension of it to social justice and human wellbeing was a culmination of the Enlightenment philosophy that flowed from the Scientific Revolution. … Naturalism, though, should not be mistaken as Skinner’s utopian vision. His vision was not an end or an ism, but a means for arriving at effective premises—empirically.” (Altus & Morris, pp. 270-1)
If human behavior is subject to laws of nature which can be recognized, then it ought to be possible to identify some of those laws, although no one, Skinner, Altus, nor anyone else, has ever listed them as far as is known by this author, perhaps because they believe that each group of people must identify them “empirically” from their own experience. Yet “laws of nature” ought to hold for everyone, like gravity for example, so it should be possible to deduce and explain what the members of Twin Oaks Community have learned about communalism from our fifty years of experience with intentioneering an alternative, countercultural, parallel society to that of the mainstream, dominant culture. Following are six suggestions for the communal lessons discovered and lived in Twin Oaks’ behavioral experiment.
Utopia is Too Easy!
In 1994 Kat Kinkade (now printing the short version of her name) titled her second book about Twin Oaks, Is It Utopia Yet? An Insider’s View of Twin Oaks Community In Its 26th Year. Kat answers in her book the rhetorical question she used in her title by saying on her last page, “We’re working on it.” Yet one good method for determining whether Twin Oaks or any communal society could be called “utopia” is whether people consider that living in the community is substantially easier than living in the outside, dominant culture. The term “utopia” was created by Thomas More for his 1516 utopian fiction titled Utopia, meaning either no place or good place, and since Twin Oaks is obviously a place, and it can certainly be called a good place, then the question is whether Twin Oaks can be considered an improvement upon the dominant culture! As it turns out, various members, some former and perhaps some current members, have said that living at Twin Oaks is “too easy!”
The present author is one of those people who felt that living at Twin Oaks was too easy, since in the Twin Oaks version of utopia one always has: at least two meals provided every day in the dining hall; a warm, private room in which one can decide whether to sleep alone or to invite a friend, since marriage has none of its economic or security attributes in a non-violent, egalitarian, communal culture; a system available for managing each members’ voluntary participation in community decision-making; a sense of security since violence is not tolerated and everyone looks out for others; a beautiful natural environment to enjoy; equal access to all the clothes, toys, instruments, tools, vehicles, and other assets of the community; interesting work and skills to learn; clearly defined ways for everyone to contribute to the good of all while accumulating personal vacation time; and interesting people to meet, constantly coming from and going to other communities and places all over the world, along with occasional opportunities for oneself to travel to such places.
As long as one engages in the labor system and respects the behavior code along with all other members, a person has nothing to worry about: no or minimal use of the outside-world’s monetary system, no competition, and no oppression of any kind. Envy is minimized when everyone has the same access to goods and services, as well as opportunities for acquiring things for personal or unique needs and wants. And there is usually always someone else who is willing to volunteer to deal with the serious, onerous problems that come along. If such a life sounds too easy, then that is an indication that the reader has found utopia! Or at least as Kat has written, Twin Oaks and its related communities create over time successive “approximations of utopia.” (citation needed)
While there are always many issues, controversies, and conflicts roiling the community, a person does not have to pay attention to any of that if one wishes to avoid the stress, although each member does have to live by all community agreements, including the processes for decision-making, the property code, behavior code, and other aspects of the community’s formal and informal social contract.
What is hard is leaving communal culture. The longer a person stays in communal society the more they lose contact with their former life in the outside, and the harder it is to get reestablished in it. If they drop out of college to join community, going back to school can be very difficult, unless as former Twin Oaks member Colleen Higgins once commented, one is of the opinion that college is wasted on 20-somethings, while mature students can get more out of it. I found that to be the case, myself. Before community I had no interest in economics or politics and dropped out of college to learn alternative culture in a rural commune. After community I earned degrees in business and political science as I had learned how important these are in the design of society and culture, both the mainstream and the parallel cultures.
The hardest part for some former members in the outside world can be getting beyond the feeling that they are a pretender, or a stranger in a strange land, being in it yet never feeling that they want to do all that it takes to be a complete part of it. For some people that sentiment is why they joined community in the first place, and often when they leave community the feeling is stronger, and it never goes away. That is why people often write sentimentally about their time in community, always wanting to reconnect with others who share the experience. This is felt not only among communitarian refugees, yet also among people in the former Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. An East German woman once commented on TV that the transition from an economy where everyone was part of the same effort to everyone being in the system for themselves was hard to make. Indigenous people have always had, and will always have, that problem when they move away from tribal areas, or their tribe dissolves or is destroyed.
Because of this commonality between intentioneers (i.e., communitarians) and indigenous tribal peoples I teach via the “School of Intentioneering” that the political-economic concept of the “Fourth World” includes both indigenous tribal cultures and intentional communities, among other decentralized, self-reliant cultures. The Fourth World is comprised of small communities, tribal and ethnic cultures, and countries that are happy with their economy and society and are not trying to become mainstream, or compete as strenuously in the global, market-based, First World, which is the goal of the Third World. The Second World is state-planned economies like the former Soviet Union, although these are dwindling in number.
100-Member Limit (as of 2017)
While Skinner populated his fictional Walden Two community with 1,000 pliable members, the practical population limit for the self-willed people comprising egalitarian societies is set by the experience of Twin Oaks (TO) and East Wind (EW), currently at under 100 adults each. At whatever population level, Twin Oaks will continue to represent the standard for secular, egalitarian communal societies in America.
Kat wrote in her 1972 book about Twin Oaks that 1,000 members was “our theoretical goal.” This was one of the design parameters that she and the other East Wind cofounders took with them to Missouri, although in the initial EW bylaws the theoretical goal was reduced to 750 members, since the Walden Two idea of 1,000 did not seem to be practical. In 2010 EW reset its “membership ceiling” at 73, less than a tenth of the original goal, while the community’s 2016 population level slightly exceeded that. (Kinkade, 1973, p. 42; EW Legispol 2011, section 11.52)
Neither Twin Oaks nor East Wind seem to want to grow larger, probably because of the concern for the communication and other quality-of-life problems resulting from an ever-growing population, however slow that growth may be. In 2017 Twin Oaks is looking to purchase more contiguous land, although probably to create another communal group upon it rather than to expand its current membership. If this land is acquired and a new income-sharing community is founded upon it, that will increase the number of satellite communities of Twin Oaks in Louisa County to six, with Acorn being the largest at around 30 or 40 members.
While one may tend to think that the communal labor system, governance processes, social contract, and other aspects of these communities should be able to accommodate much larger numbers of people, TO and EW, at least, seem to have reached a practical limit. The growth of Twin Oaks is now essentially delegated to its newest satellite communities, most of them founded in the same county of Louisa, while East Wind has yet to create any communal satellites in its Ozark County.
There is much to be said about the numbers game for identifying ideal population levels for different types of intentional communities. Among primitive clans and tribes the anthropologist Robin Dunbar says that 150 people is the average human’s cognitive social limit, according to his plotting of “overall group size against the neocortical development of the brain.” Meanwhile, the paleo-anthropologist Richard Leakey writes that the number 25 is the typical limit for the clan, and 500 for the minimum size of a breeding population, constituting the “dialectical tribe” with which the individual identifies. (Leakey & Lewin, pp. 111, 113-4; Ryan & Jethá, p. 171)
Among the various forms of contemporary intentional communities: the religious Hutterites split when they reach 150; most cohousing groups have 40 to 70 adults; and some Israeli kibbutzim had over 1,000 members before they gave up communalism and became collective communities on government land trusts. The kibbutzim estimated that a population of about 350 people is needed in order to maintain a complete age-range from youngest to oldest over the generations. (citations needed)
Labor-Credit Systems Can Replace Money
There had long been the ideal, since at least the early 19th century in England, of creating an economic system which would reward workers with the full value of their labor, rather than the capitalist model of business owners taking as much from labor as they can get. Ronald Garnett explains in his 1972 book, Cooperation and the Owenite Socialist Communities in Britain: 1825-45, that, “The basis of communitarian thought was equality—economic rather than political—in that the labourer had a right to the full value of the product of [his or her] labour.” Much of the development of this theory was due to the excesses of poverty and debasement resulting from the dispossessed and deprived underclass during the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in first England, then France, Germany, and later in America and elsewhere. To create economic justice, it was believed, a society or a culture had to do away with the use of money internally and substitute something else. However, finding something which would substantially serve the ideal took about 140 years. (Garnett, p. 26)
From the mid 1820s to the early 1830s the idea of a time-based currency, so named in the present author’s School of Intentioneering, was developed in England, with the principle designer or intentioneer being the Welsh industrialist Robert Owen (1771-1858), who had earlier been influenced by Gerard Winstanley’s 1652 book The Law of Freedom and by the Quaker, John Beller’s 1695 book, Proposals for Raising a College of Industry of All Useful Trades and Husbandry, which was a call for a form of publically-supported education program designed as an intentional community. Beller’s educational-community idea has occurred to many others through time as well, from the ancient Greek philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras, to the New England Transcendentalists at Brook Farm, to Findhorn University in Scotland. (Rexroth, pp. 151-2)
Ronald Garnett explains further that since in the 18th and 19th centuries in England there was no social safety net like welfare, the British people had long been forming associations for mutual-aid in response to being forced off ancestral lands, to being enclosed from access to the commons, and due to having to struggle to find work in the oppressive factories. By at least the 1790s there were “trade clubs” and “voluntary mutual sickness and life insurance companies” referred to as “friendly societies.” Some of these had “fellowship rites,” which Garnett states provided, “a unifying influence on working class culture.” Presumably, many “friendly societies” developed sharing systems that did not involve money. Garnett explains that, “Many social reform measures, apart from cooperation, were built on this foundation of working class consciousness.” By 1815 there were almost a million members of friendly societies, or about 8.5 percent of the British population, and nearly all of these groups were local organizations “with strong communal ties.” By the mid-19th century, “large affiliated orders were predominant,” such as the Manchester Unity of Oddfellows, with its quarter-million members in 1848. (Garnett, pp. 11-2; McLanahan & McLanahan, p. 305)
Robert Owen’s and others’ ideas about time-based economies resulted in giving workers a form of paper scrip stating the amount of time the worker had contributed, which were then redeemed in a community store for goods and services, essentially comprising an alternative exchange system to that of the official currency. The “labour theory of value” was explained by Owen as goods being “exchanged on the equitable principles of labour, for equal value of labour through the medium of Labour Notes.” The labor exchanges served to bring the trade unions into the cooperative movement. (Garnett, pp. 139, 141)
John Curl provides a simpler explanation in his 2009 book For All the People. He quotes Robert Owen’s 1821 community proposal called, Report to the County of Lanark, in which Owen writes that, “the natural standard of value is, in principle, human labour.” (Curl, p. 37)
Intermediary exchange associations were set up to facilitate the circulation of both labor notes and monetary currencies, yet the whole system imploded by 1834 as there was no standard equivalencies for converting “labor notes” into British currency, which resulted in the destruction of many cooperative societies including the first co-op stores, labor exchanges, trades syndicalism, and the movement for the eight-hour workday. (Garnett, pp. 140, 142)
Donald Pitzer in his 1997 edited work, America’s Communal Utopias, writes that, “In Britain, workers’ cooperatives and trade unions originated in Owenite activity.” Pitzer explains that Friedrich Engels, the associate and benefactor of Karl Marx, was a “critic of Owenite utopian and communitarian socialism … [who] conceded that ‘all social movements, all real advance made in England in the interests of the working class were associated with Owen’s name’.” (Pitzer, pp. 123, 133 n. 109; Engels, pp. 296-7)
Frank and Fritzie Manuel probably wrote the most detailed criticism of Marx’ and Engels’ hypocritical attitude toward “utopian socialists” in their 1979 book, Utopian Thought in the Western World. Like the communitarian scholar and kibbutz member, Yaacov Oved, the Manuel’s use the term “sneer” in describing Marx’ and Engels’ comments about the communitarians. Oved writes about Engels that, “He openly sneered at utopian experiments,” while the Manuels state that Engels’ writing titled in part, Anti-Duhring (1878) is, “spotted with similar sneers.” That is, sneers like calling communitarian settlements, “optimum little republics.” (Manuel & Manuel, p. 700; Oved, p. 428)
The Manuels state that while Marx and Engels used the term Utopian Socialist as “an epithet of denigration to be splashed onto any theoretical opponent,” at the same time their doctrine of the second phase of communism, as described in the paper, Critique of the Gotha Program, utilizes Morelly’s maxim of equality, which is itself utopian; this is the familiar, “From each according to [one’s] ability, to each according to [one’s] needs.” (Manuel & Manuel, pp. 698, 711, 715; Tucker, p. 531)
Frank and Fritzie Manuel point out that Marx’ and Engels’ Communist Manifesto (1848) is utopian, and that, “on occasion even they might lapse into utopian glossolalia.” [Example: Tucker, p. 472] (Manuel & Manuel, p. 699)
Robert Owen brought the labor notes idea to America with his communal experiment at New Harmony. However, every attempt to use forms of labor notes in intentional communities through the 19th century in America (as in Britain), such as at New Harmony in Indiana (1825-27), and at Kaweah (1885-92) and Altruria (1894-5) both in California, resulted in the labor notes system being the first thing to be abandoned as the communities began to fail.
It was Josiah Warren, called by his biographer the “first American anarchist,” who would be inspired by his time at Owen’s New Harmony community to develop the labor notes idea into a successful time-based economic system, although as a labor-exchange system not as a communal economy. John Curl explains that Warren’s store gave to its members time credit for each product they deposited, which they then used in barter for products they needed. Warren added to the bill the time it took him, the store clerk, to make the transaction. “An hour’s work was considered worth an hour’s work; no adjustment was made to account for the different hourly values of every different type of work on the capitalist market.” (Curl, p. 37)
Donald Pitzer refers to Warren’s labor exchanges as the “Time Store Cooperative Movement” (1833-63), involving first his time-store at New Harmony, then in Cincinnati (1827-30), then the Equity Community (1833-5) and Utopia (1847-51) all in Ohio, and Modern Times (1851-63) in Long Island, New York. (Pitzer, pp. 120, 130 n.68, 489) Other people adapted Josiah Warren’s Time Store model in Ohio and in Philadelphia, PA, where it was called the “Producer’s Exchange of Labor for Labor Association,” yet always as exchange systems, not for communal economies. (Cress, pp. 72-3)
By Pitzer’s count, there were a total of 29 Owenite communities: nineteen in the U.S., one in Canada, and nine in England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. They developed pre-schools and “communal” childcare systems, and at various times and to different degrees, experimented with communalism. At twelve years Modern Times was the longest lived. (Pitzer, pp. 122-3)
Eventually the labor exchange became a movement unto itself. For that discussion see book VI, chapter 7 of The Intentioneer’s Bible, titled “Labor Exchanges versus Alternative Currencies in the U.S.” (Butcher, 2016)
As Kenneth Rexroth explains, Josiah Warren (1798-1874) anticipated many of the French anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon’s (1809-65) theories. Proudhon published What is Property? in 1840, popularizing the phrase, “property is theft.” Karl Marx’s criticism of Proudhon assured Proudhon’s reputation as the founder of anarchism. Yet as Rexroth explains, Warren’s work predated Proudhon’s, saying that, “Warren not only anticipated Proudhon, but he was a far clearer thinker and writer, and a man who believed in testing all of his theories in practice. Marx was right about Proudhon. He was a confused thinker and a confusing writer and far from being a practical man.” (Rexroth, pp. 226, 238)
Murray Bookchin writes that Proudhon’s anarchism envisioned the exchange of products without competition or profit, with small craftsmen and collectively-owned industries organized into local and regional federations with minimal or no delegation of power to a central government. This is the basis of Bookchin’s theories of “confederal municipalism,” which he later called “communalism” in his 2015 book The Next Revolution, confusingly using the French political definition of the term as opposed to the more familiar English economic definition meaning commonly-owned property. Proudhon created a “mutual credit bank” using “labor-value certificates” which neither charged nor paid interest, similar to Warren’s time stores which functioned as Rexroth writes as “an interest-free credit union [with] loans in labor and commodities and eventually money.” (Bookchin, pp. 20-1; Dolgoff, p. 67; Hyams, pp. 85-6; Rexroth, p. 238)
While Edward Bellamy never stated the sources for the ideas which he included in his utopian fiction Looking Backward published in 1888, it is entirely possible that he was familiar with Josiah Warren’s publications, primarily his 1847 book Equitable Commerce, since both lived in Massachusetts in the 1860s and ‘70s, and Bellamy was known to have an extensive personal library.
Not until Kat Kinkade developed the vacation-credit labor system at Twin Oaks Community in the summer of 1967 would a successful communal labor-credit system be invented. Edward Bellamy had included a time-based “credit card” system in his Looking Backward utopian fiction, and from this B. F. Skinner got the idea that a community could use ledger accounts for managing individual labor contributions with no form of exchange of anything like coins or paper bills. In Walden Two Skinner wrote, “Bellamy suggested the principle in Looking Backward.” (Skinner, 2005, p. 46)
Warren, Bellamy, Skinner, and others have also suggested rewarding labor differently for different types of work in communal society. Walden House (in Wash. D.C.), Twin Oaks, and East Wind all experimented with “variable-credits” for ten years from 1966 until about 1976, rewarding some work done with more labor-credits than other work, until members decided to value all labor equally. It is an important lesson to keep in mind that variable compensation for labor is an aspect of monetary economics, while being both impractical and anathema to time-based economics.
Building upon Skinner’s idea of ledger accounts, Kat Kinkade’s brilliant innovation, called by the present author the “vacation-credit labor system,” set a weekly work quota that all members agree to meet, with vacation time earned by working over-quota. This time-based economy, called at Twin Oaks simply the “labor-credit system,” became as Twin Oaks member Mala stated to a reporter, “the glue that keeps this community together.” (Mala, quoted in Rems, 2003)
It is phenomenal how the thing that was usually given up first when communal groups failed, their time-based economy, became the most important thing that now makes them successful! Kat Kinkade essentially created the first complete alternative economic system to that of monetary economics, and sadly, very few people outside of the egalitarian communities movement know anything about it! It would seem that such an achievement would be worthy of much pride and promotion, yet most people think nothing of it. Reporters and academicians come and go and rarely ever understand the significance of Twin Oaks’ vacation-credit labor system.
Extending equality in America from the political system to the economic system was the whole point of Bellamy’s Looking Backward, which was immensely influential around the end of the 19th century. Today the labor-credit system is essentially the portal to a parallel reality existing within global monetary economics, enabling the very thing that has eluded social reformers since the early Industrial Revolution—a truly egalitarian economic system—and no one talks about it!
Feminism is ALIVE when All Labor Is Valued Equally
Along with the idea that workers ought to receive the full value of their labor, is the sentiment that all labor that directly benefits the whole community or society ought to be valued equally. The feminist ideal of domestic work or “women’s work” being valued equally with income-generating work and all other work typically performed by men, is served via the vacation-credit labor system. This is another fantastic achievement and characteristic of Twin Oaks and other egalitarian communities providing an important lesson. While feminists and others have looked for ways for women to earn money for housework as a way to create economic equality, only non-monetary, time-based economies, including labor exchanges as well as quota and anti-quota labor systems, value “reproductive work” the same as all other labor.
While people generally discount the idea that in a labor-credit economy a doctor is rewarded the same for their work as someone cleaning a barn, there have been doctors who have been members of Twin Oaks, East Wind, Ganas, and other egalitarian communities. Clearly, for many people the benefits of egalitarian economics are seen as being more important than differential compensation for labor. For this “Feminism is ALIVE” communal lesson the egalitarian ideal of valuing domestic and income work equally is a major success for Twin Oaks and its associated groups comprising the Federation of Egalitarian Communities.
Kat Kinkade wrote a letter to anthropologist Jon Wagner saying about Twin Oaks that, “absolute sexual equality is fundamental to our idea of equality, and equality is fundamental to our approach to changing society. There is no platform of our ideology that is more central.” (Kinkade, quoted in Goldenberg, p. 258)
Zena Goldenberg in her chapter titled “Feminism at Twin Oaks” in the 1993 book Women in Spiritual and Communitarian Societies in the United States, quotes Jon Wagner stating an endorsement of Twin Oaks’ egalitarian culture in his comment that Twin Oaks, “may be among the most non-sexist social systems in human history.” (Wagner, quoted by Goldenberg in Chmielewski, Kern, & Klee-Hartzell, p. 258; Wagner, pp. 37-8)
Social Anarchy Rules when Participatory Governance Upholds Idealism over Dissent
The same year that B. F. Skinner published Walden Two, Martin Buber published in his Paths in Utopia (1948) a maxim similar to what Skinner evidently believed, that the design of community cannot be set by ideology alone. While Skinner states that communities should discover their own truths through empiricism or experimentation, Buber writes, “Community should not be made into a principle; it, too, should always satisfy a situation rather than an abstraction. The realization of community, like the realization of any idea, cannot occur once and for all time: always it must be the moment’s answer to the moment’s question, and nothing more.” (Buber, p. 134)
The danger which both Skinner and Buber suggest is to be avoided is mistaking a blueprint for a principle. While holding on to the founder’s ideals for what a community is intended to be can be a unifying force, divergent views can arise from experience or from outside influences. In the cases of Twin Oaks and East Wind it is clear that while Kat Kinkade accepted the value of experimentation, she and others were very committed to certain principles found in the book Walden Two. Kat once wrote that she read Walden Two once a year while she was founding TO and EW, and fortunately her and other’s commitment to experimentation with the ideas for governance and economics found in the book, with some modifications, did result in a successful communal model, although the communal childcare which Skinner championed, like the idea of variable credits, proved to be a failed ideal.
When the founders first settled at Twin Oaks in the late 1960s consensus decision-making process was just beginning to be developed, and some of the founders wanted to use it. Consensus, however, was not what Skinner believed in, since he had a more authoritarian form of governance in mind, which Hilke Kuhlmann calls “psychologist-kings.” (Kuhlmann, 1999, p. 41)
Skinner’s governmental model is called the “planner-manager” form of government, which at Twin Oaks evolved into much more of a participatory form of governance than Skinner imagined. Kat Kinkade waited a few months until the initial experiment with consensus process bogged down, then got the group to accept Skinner’s planner-manager model of governance. Twin Oaks’ early experiment with consensus process probably helped the planner-manager structure to become a form of participatory management. As Kuhlmann wrote, “By the early seventies, the role envisioned for the planners had shifted from omnipotent decision-makers to facilitators.” (Kinkade, 1972, pp. 51-4; Kuhlmann, 1999, p. 37)
Governance at Twin Oaks evolved toward a form of participatory decision-making, which some people likened to consensus, while the term “sociocracy” seems to be more appropriate for the TO system as it delegates authority to managers in whom decision-making responsibility is entrusted. Yet the irresistible force of participatory governance hit the immovable object of idealism in the attachment to the idea of communal childcare, resulting in the cognitive dissonance of people, like the present author, doing one thing while saying something very different about exactly what they were doing for childcare.
Many members seemed to think that of course a communal society must have communal childcare. Yet if any of us knew that all through the history of both religious and secular communalism communal childcare has been a problem when parents defer decision-making for their children to the community, they probably thought that we at Twin Oaks or at East Wind might succeed where others failed, as was the case with communal time-based economics. For two decades Twin Oaks struggled to make something work that never has worked over the long term, neither for the Hutterites, the Israeli Kibbutzim, nor for anyone else so far.
As discussed further in the next section, Twin Oaks’ experiments with communal childcare was plagued with parents refusing to follow all the agreements or decisions made at meetings by the group of parents and other caregivers. For two decades people talked about “communal childcare,” which meant parents giving decision-making power over their children to the group, while many parents refused to follow the resulting agreements or decisions they did not like. Conflicts escalated as non-compliance was met by social pressure, yet parents continued to ignore the rules they disliked. Eventually it was social anarchy that ended communal childcare at Twin Oaks, while at East Wind the story was similar yet more intense. Despite the commitment to participatory governance, the story of communal childcare in Federation communities shows how group-think can maintain commitment to a hopelessly failed ideology while policy dilemmas seem to continually reoccur. Although the successful evolution of time-based, sharing economics illustrates that people can overcome fundamental problems of communal organization, communal childcare illustrates a greater level of difficulty.
Essentially, the commitment to communal childcare at Twin Oaks resulted in people trying for two decades to make something work that was continually failing. Social pressure reinforced the status quo, while non-compliance with childcare agreements resulted in an example of social anarchy within a bureaucratic system. When the community-wide communication process at Twin Oaks in 1988 called the “Child Program Process” upheld the agreements or rules about children sleeping together in the children’s building called “Degania,” rather than with their parents in the group residences, the community failed to accurately assess the situation and to responsibly evolve the community’s fundamental ideals. Eventually the people involved caused the change by abandoning communal childcare. A similar dynamic very likely led to the end of communal children’s houses in the Kibbutz and the Hutterian Colonies, and may also have been much of the reason for the demise of the communal group that arose in Jerusalem after the death of Jesus of Nazareth, as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles in the Christian Bible. This Early Christian Church is stated by Trevor Saxby as likely having existed only around twenty years as a communal economy, or about one generation, before changing to a collective where people accumulated private property and tithed to the church. (Acts of the Apostles 2:44, 4:32, 4:34-5; Gavron, 2003, p. 727; Near, pp. 731-2; Oved, pp. 351, 361; Saxby, p. 21; see: Butcher, 2016, book I, chapter 5, “The Influence of Children Upon Society,” and book III, chapter 10, “The Christian Communalism of Anabaptism, the Free Spirit, and the Beguines”)
In participatory governance, social anarchy always “rules.” Dissent may arise in the form of another generation rebelling against the monetary system, while the next generation rebels against radical lifestyles. It is a form of “bi-polar dissent,” as when one generation moves from the country to the city, and another generation moves back-to-the-land. Lifestyle fads and formats evolve with each cycle of the generations.
Failure of Communal Childcare Shifts Focus to Collective Parentcare
Kat Kinkade’s emphasis upon feminism extended to the communal care of children. Most likely she did not know about the history of communal childcare, while she generally accepted the perspective on it that Skinner wrote into Walden Two, who himself knew nothing about communal childcare, only using the concept to help explain his behaviorist theories.
Although there is much to be said on this topic, in short there are at least two problems with communal childcare. First, in all cases, from the Hutterites, to the Israeli Kibbutzim, to the Federation of Egalitarian Communities, the biggest problem when parents give to the community the primary responsibility for their children is the lack of consistently high-quality childcare. Everything has to be worked out with the entire group of parents and care-givers, including immunizations, diet, discipline, education, and what toys the children can play with. As former Twin Oaks member Karen Stephens expresses in Ingrid Komar’s 1983 book, Living the Dream, achieving agreement on these and many other issues creates such a bureaucratic cost in meeting time that focusing upon the developmental needs of each child is often lost. (Komar, p. 240; also the comment by “mother from EW” p. 241)
It may be that having two sets of meetings is necessary in communal childcare: one for agreements about the childcare program and another about each child’s specific development. Without that division of concerns the issues over maintaining agreements among the adults tends to push the discussion about each child’s accomplishments and problems off the agenda. While more meetings might be an answer to the problems of communal childcare, it begs the question of just how much the commitment of more energy to more meetings is justified, given that the bigger problem is the high turnover rate among those who provide care to the children. The result of caregivers coming and going is that the parents end up having the most consistent relationship with their children, which can lead to parents disregarding community childcare policies with which they disagree, resulting in the failure of the communal childcare program.
The second problem with communal childcare is that members of the community who do not have children tend to question the need to pay the cost of childcare and education when in most cases the children will leave the community when they become adults. Since most communal societies maintain their membership by admitting new members, usually young adults, they do not need to support children in order to maintain or grow their membership. Yet young adults tend to have children, periodically questioning community policies regarding children. Non-parent members, usually the large majority of members, typically prefer to avoid the costs of childcare and education by restricting the number of children in the community. It is said that this is why the Catholic Church insists upon celibacy for both its monastics and its clergy. While some of the reason for that may be the desire to focus upon prayer or service, much of the reason is because children always want an inheritance, which would be a drain on Church resources. A similar concern may explain why East Wind Community permits only a token child presence of about one child for every ten adults.
Another possible explanation for East Wind Community’s policies restricting its child population would be that children cramp the party atmosphere, particularly with regard to nudity and the use of recreational consumables. Especially if the community has no school and the children must go to the local public school, culture shock can result for both the community children and for the local adults and children. Therefore, in the interest of good local public relations, East Wind restricts its child population to a token childcare program in which most of the few children that are born into the community leave with their parents by the time they reach school age. Because of its child policies the present author refers to East Wind as the Federation of Egalitarian Communities’ “party commune,” similar to the “pleasure planet” in the fictional StarTrek’s United Federation of Planets, called “Risa.” Better than Disney Land, the Federation has East Risa!!
East Wind’s anti-child policies began with its first refusal of a member’s pregnancy in 1976. At the time the community wanted to delay having children until a Twin Oaks’ style childcare building could be built and staffed. Some years later the community did create a childcare facility, yet the precedent was set that it was acceptable to refuse pregnancies and push pregnant women out of the community. Over the years East Wind’s communal childcare program experienced the same problems as at Twin Oaks and other communal societies, to where the community ended its communal program in favor of a collective system, while it continued to refuse many pregnancies, creating a small yet steady stream of East Wind pregnancy refugees.
For many years at East Wind, when a woman’s pregnancy proposal was refused she was confronted by an ultimatum to either get an abortion or leave. Eventually the community became sensitive to the abhorrence with which many people viewed this policy, and as of 2011 the community vote is simply as to whether or not the community will provide any funding for any newly-announced pregnancy. Obviously, refusing financial support for a member’s child does essentially the same thing in a communal economy as the earlier ultimatum; it is simply less overtly lacking in compassion. [Full disclosure: the present author was one of those served the child program ultimatum at East Wind, later to be accepted into Twin Oaks’ much more developed communal childcare program before it was ended.]
Twin Oaks does not have pregnancy and child policies as extreme as East Wind’s, accepting almost all births in the community, except for those whose circumstances are clearly problematic. Acorn even began a policy of welcoming single parents to the community, although it is not known to the present author how well that policy has been working. A big question is whether anyone will help these children pay for college?
There were a couple stages in the demise of communal childcare at Twin Oaks, with the Child Program Process in 1988 being an important milestone, to where sometime in the mid-1990s the community formally gave up its communal program (Kinkade, 1994, p. 146; Kuhlmann, p. 102) in favor of what may be called a “collective childcare system.”
As defined by the present author’s school-of-thought about intentional community developed in the School of Intentioneering, “collective” means the sharing of privately-owned property, which in this case means that parents do not give control over decision-making with regard to their children to the community or any group of parents and caregivers. Parents have the primary responsibility for their children in collective childcare systems, which then can look much like a childcare cooperative within a communal society.
Essentially, the lesson is that communal childcare does not work over the long term. It can work for a while, and Twin Oaks practiced communal childcare to various degrees from the mid ‘70s to the mid ‘90s. The collective form of childcare now used at Twin Oaks is probably what has been or is being adopted at Acorn and the other local communal groups with children, and probably at East Wind as well.
On the occasion of East Wind Community’s 10th Land Day holiday Kat Kinkade returned from Twin Oaks and stated during a conversation in the Music Room that a community cannot presume to be a complete alternative to the dominant culture if it does not provide for children. While the ideal of communal childcare has proven to be impractical, the methods used for providing for parental childcare as a collective within a communal society suggests that the community’s concentration needs to be upon collective “parentcare;” providing support for members who are parents in caring for their children.
(Sources on communal childcare at Twin Oaks and East Wind: Butcher, 2016, book I, chapter 5 and book VI, chapter 16; Communities no. 9, July-August 1974, pp. 10-12; Communities no. 73, winter 1987, pp. 18-22; Communities no. 76, May 1990, pp. 11-14; Communities no. 103, summer 1999, pp. 45-8; Kinkade, 1973, pp. 130-46; Kinkade, 1994, pp. 143-52; Komar, pp. 211-57; Kuhlmann, 2005, pp. 102-106)
Breaking the 50-Year Record and Realizing the Cooperative Commonwealth
With over fifty years existence this is a good time to declare the Twin Oaks utopian experiment a success! No other secular communal society in America has existed as long. The 19th century Icarian communities are a runner-up, yet they dissolved when they reached the fifty-year mark. In Israel the kibbutz movement will hold the global secular communal records for a while, having had the largest secular communal societies at over 1,100 members, and the longest lived at about ninety years of communalism so far. Yet while the term “kibbutz” used to mean “communal,” all but a small number of kibbutzim have given up communalism to where now the term “kibbutz” more generally means “intentional community.” Today as often in Israel, America, Europe, and elsewhere there are a number of small urban and rural groups utilizing an anti-quota communal economy. Keep in mind at the same time that all communal groups represent only about ten percent of the community listings in the Communities Directory, printed by the Fellowship for Intentional Community. Most intentional communities share privately-owned rather than commonly-owned property.
With a growing number of rural and urban satellite communities each pursuing their own experiment in the secular, egalitarian communal tradition pioneered at Twin Oaks, all of their adaptations and evolutions will hopefully someday comprise the basis for a comparative study of the successes and failures of these related communities.
Now arising in Louisa County, Virginia is the dynamic of an inter-dependent, growing number of communal groups around Twin Oaks. The idea of a network of communal and collective groups in local proximity in America as a force for social change has been a goal since at least the publishing of the 1884 book by Laurence Gronlund titled The Cooperative Commonwealth. Whether this is called today “radical decentralism,” “deep democracy,” “democratic confederalism,” “communal municipalism,” a “regional commonwealth,” or something else, this is a fascinating story now developing, with challenges to be identified, lessons to be debated, and glorious revelations yet to be realized and celebrated!
This presentation of the lessons of the intentional community tradition of Twin Oaks Community references much of the history of the countercultural, Fourth World, gifting and sharing alternatives to the dominant culture’s taking and exchanging in the First World. The stories of time-based economies and of communal childcare comprise two of the themes presented in The Intentioneer’s Bible: Interwoven Stories of the Parallel Cultures of Plenty and Scarcity, which tracks these and other themes through much of the prehistory and history of Western Civilization. As illustrated in the article above, the material in the Intentioneers presentation for the School of Intentioneering is similar to a bibliographic essay, indentifying sources of topics for further inquiry.
Altus, Deborah, & Morris, Edward. (2004, September). B. F. Skinner’s utopian vision: Behind and beyond Walden Two. Contemporary Justice Review, vol. 7, no. 3, 267-86.
Bookchin, Murray. (1977). The Spanish anarchists: The heroic years 1868-1936. NY: Harper Colophon Books.
Buber, Martin. (1948). Paths in Utopia. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.
Butcher, A. Allen. (2016). The intentioneer’s bible: Interwoven stories of the parallel cultures of plenty and scarcity. Self-published at: Amazon.com
Cress, Kit Firth. (1987). Communitarian connections: Josiah Warren, Robert Smith, and Peter Kaufmann. Communal Societies: Journal of the National Historic Communal Societies Association, 7, 67-81.
Curl, John. (2012). For all the people: Uncovering the hidden history of cooperation, cooperative movements, and communalism in America (2nd ed.). Oakland, CA: PM Press.
Dolgoff, Sam. (1974) The anarchist collectives: Workers’ self-management in the Spanish Revolution 1936-1939. New York: Free Life Editions.
Engels, Friedrich. (1935, original work published in 1878). Anti-Duhring: Herr Eugen Duhring’s revolution in science. Chicago: C. H. Kerr.
Goldenberg, Zena. (1993). The power of feminism at Twin Oaks Community. In W. Chmielewski, L. Kern, & M. Klee-Hartzell (Eds.), Women in spiritual and communitarian societies in the United States. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press.
Garnett, Ronald George. (1972). Co-operation and the Owenite socialist communities in Britain, 1825-1845. Manchester, England: Manchester University Press.
Gavron, Daniel. (2003). Intentional communities in Israel-Current movement. In Karen Christensen and David Levinson (Eds.). The encyclopedia of community: From the village to the virtual world, Vol. 2. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Hyams, Edward. (1973). The millennium postponed: Socialism from Sir Thomas More to Mao Tse-Tung. New York: Meridian New American Library.
Kinkade, Kathleen. (1972). A Walden Two experiment: The first five years of Twin Oaks Community (2nd Ed.). Louisa, VA: Twin Oaks Community, Inc.
Kinkade, Kat. (1994). Is it utopia yet? An insider’s view of Twin Oaks Community in its 26th year. Louisa, VA: Twin Oaks Community, Inc.
Komar, Ingrid. (1983). Living the dream: A documentary study of Twin Oaks Community. Norwood. Previously published as Volume 1 of the Communal Studies and Utopian Studies Book Series, Harvard Univ. Project for the Kibbbutz. Reprinted 1989 by Twin Oaks Community.
Kuhlmann, Hilke. (1999, summer). “Walden Two communities: What were they all about?” Communities: Journal of cooperative living. Rutledge, MO: Fellowship for Intentional Community.
Kuhlmann, Hilke. (2005). Living Walden Two: B. F. Skinner’s behaviorist utopia and experimental communities. Champaign, IL: University of Illinois.
Leakey, Richard, & Lewin, Roger. (1978). People of the lake: Mankind and its beginnings. New York: Avon.
Manuel, Frank & Manuel, Fritzie. (1979). Utopian thought in the Western world. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press.
McLanahan, J. & McLanahan, C. (1990). Cooperative/credit union dictionary and reference. Richmond, KY: The Cooperative Alumni Association.
Near, Henry. (2003). Intentional communities in Israel-History. In Karen Christensen and David Levinson (Eds.). The encyclopedia of community: From the village to the virtual world, Vol. 2. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Oved, Yaacov. (1988). Two Hundred Years of American Communes. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Books.
Pitzer, Donald E. (Ed). (1997). America’s communal utopias. Chapel Hill, NC: Univ. of North Carolina Press.
Rems, Emily. (2003 winter). “Ecovillage people.” BUST magazine. http://thefec.org/about/media/bust–magazine
Ryan, C. & Jethá, C. (2010). Sex at dawn: How we mate, why we stray, and what it means for modern relationships. New York: Harper Collins Publishers.
Rexroth, Kenneth. (1974). Communalism: From its origins to the twentieth century. New York: Seabury Press.
Saxby, Trevor J. (1987). Pilgrims of a common life: Christian community of goods through the centuries. Scottdale, Pennsylvania: Herald Press.
Skinner, B. F. (2005). Walden Two. New York: Mc-Millan. (Original work published 1948)
Skinner, B. F. (1969). [Preface], In Skinner, B. F., Walden Two (pp. v-vi). New York: McMillan.
Skinner, B. F. (1976). [Preface], In Skinner, B. F., Walden Two (pp. v-xvi). New York: McMillan.
Skinner, B. F. (1979). The shaping of a behaviorist. New York: Knopf.
Tucker, Robert C. (Ed.). (1978). The Marx-Engels Reader (2nd Ed.). New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
Wagner, Jon. (1982). Sex roles in contemporary American communes. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.
Upon the occasion of Twin Oaks Community’s (TO’s) auspicious anniversary, this is a good time to evaluate what we have learned about children in communal society. There are many other aspects of egalitarian communalism to be considered at this point-in-time as well, yet in this article I will only mention two others, work and outreach, while my focus is upon children.
As most people who have read my material probably know by now, East Wind Community (EW) has for decades terminated the membership of most women members who become pregnant. Many of them leave EW destitute and must seek assistance from family, friends, and welfare, whether or not their child’s father leaves with them. According to the community’s legislation on this matter written some years ago (sponsored by a woman member), every woman member who becomes pregnant must be subjected to a community vote as to whether she can stay or will be given the Pregnancy Ultimatum, which is to get an abortion or leave. This policy has resulted in a child-adult ratio at East Wind of one child for every ten adults. The community’s policy was changed about 2010 from telling those who fail the community vote to leave or get an abortion to now that the community simply will not contribute any money to the pregnancy or child if it is born in the community, which although this is a somewhat less onerous policy it still results in pregnant women having to choose between abortion or leaving East Wind Community.
A few women who announce their pregnancy do get permission to stay, maintaining a token child presence at EW, however, the community does not provide much for the children, requiring the parents to do much of the child care and education. Most then leave by the time they need to focus on their child’s education. To be fair, most couples that form at EW, TO, and maybe other FEC groups as well, leave before getting pregnant or leave quietly once they are pregnant, avoiding having to deal with child issues in communal society.
What is to be concluded from our experience of children in communal society?
I think we tend to ignore or down-play this learned truth, that essentially, children and communal society do not mix well. There are reasons why Catholic Monasticism requires men and women to be celibate, and it is not just so that they can focus upon worshiping the Judeo-Christian God, it is more so that the Church does not have to support the children of their clergy and monastics. What we have re-learned in the Federation of Egalitarian Communities is what Catholic Monasticism learned more than a thousand years ago!
Twin Oaks seems to get by with their limit of 2 children for every 5 adults, and it is important to look at the level of support the community offers to its children. Acorn and the other groups around TO seem to all manage children okay, although probably not to the level of communal childcare as attempted by TO and EW in their early years. Perhaps part of the reason for those community’s success with children is because in the U.S. about a quarter of the population is under 18, so 2/5 is not that different. However, I believe that it must be concluded that TO’s change from communal to collective childcare is a critical element in their current success with children in communal society.
I have written much about this in the past and will certainly be writing and publishing more. I have described how this anti-child orientation started at EW. It began with the intention of Kat Kinkade (cofounder of both TO and EW) and most other long-term members during EW’s early years, to wait to have children until the community could build and staff a communal child care building like Twin Oaks’ Degania (which has been used for various other things since TO gave up their communal child care program).
East Wind forced out the first woman to announce her pregnancy in early 1976. She went on welfare in Fayetteville, Arkansas. This was what established the precedent at EW that it is okay to kick out pregnant women, no matter their circumstances. This could not have happened if the women of EW did not want it to. Men at EW could not do this to women if the women objected. I conclude that it was the women who were at fault, led by Kat, for being willing to sacrifice other women to the ideal of communal child care, while the men were complicit in this error, or like myself, powerless to change the direction of the community.
By at least the mid-1980s it was known (to various degrees) by those who championed communal childcare in our communities that the kibbutz movement in Israel was beginning to give up its communal childcare programs (I knew it, and I know that others talked about it), and that Twin Oaks had already failed in creating its ideal communal childcare system, yet Kat and others at EW wanted to try again, regardless of the suffering it caused perfectly good members. And if the communal childcare advocates did not know of this failure then they were negligent in not seeking out the experience of other large communal societies regarding such an important matter in communal culture.
This experience at East Wind is an example of ideology eclipsing human compassion, creating for many a Federation of Egalitarian Communities dystopia.
I and my pregnant partner were forced out of East Wind Community in 1983, after my 8 years of membership. It basically felt like being in that short story by Shirly Jackson called “The Lottery.” It is like a dream that turns into a nightmare. Recently I have been informed that it is still happening. Pregnant women are still being forced out of EW to this day.
Upon the occasion of Twin Oaks’ 50th Anniversary this June, I believe this is a good time to assess the successes and failures of our communal movement. There are a lot of things that can be said under that topic, yet I will focus upon just three issues: work, children, and outreach. These are three of the most important aspects of communal society.
First about work. Maybe not everyone sees this, yet I say that Kat made the most significant contribution to communalism since the Rule of Benedict when she created what I call the “vacation-credit labor-sharing system.” Kat and everyone else just called or calls it the “labor system,” yet that obscures Kat’s brilliant innovation, the earned-vacation part. Why does not the rest of the world know this and see this? Reporters and academicians come and go, write articles, make movies, and if they mention the labor credit system at all they fail to give it the credit it deserves. Like Mala Twin Oaks said to a reporter, “The labor credit system is the glue that keeps this community together.”
I attended a conference about “the commons” and they were asking how can society make domestic labor valued as much as income labor? They did not know about our Federation communities’ success with this thanks to our labor system. I was able to make the point and it got into the conference proceedings, so that was good, yet for the most part, nobody knows. Essentially, I think we are keeping our light on this matter under a bushel basket. It is my goal to make our success in egalitarian culture better known.
At the same time, I also want to share with the world what we have learned about children in communal society. I have some knowledge and background with TO and EW, although none with Acorn. So I would like to find out about Acorn’s success. They even invited several single parents to join Acorn with their children, in contrast with East Wind. So it is important to find out Acorn’s child program progress. Most likely they have developed systems similar to TO’s.
I have what I need to write about child care programs at TO and EW in the past, and probably the present. What I want to focus upon here is the future.
I believe that it is incumbent upon all of us members and ex-members, and the Federation in particular, to respond to the drama, travesty, and personal tragedy of the institution of East Wind Community’s “Pregnancy Ultimatum.” Collectively we have been too silent about this, and I personally want to affirm what we have learned in the Federation’s experience with regard to children in communal society, so that the world will know what we now know.
Like Catholic Monasticism, however, EW has the right to create whatever culture it likes. Some may think that it is no business of non-members what the community does, yet I do not agree with this. What EW has become is at least indirectly the result of what hundreds of people did in the past, at TO as well as at EW. It is rightly a concern of all members and ex-members, and I think that we are all remiss at least, and negligent in any objective evaluation, to continue to ignore and remain silent in the face of the trepidations and plights of those women and men who are forced out of their home at East Wind for simply having a child.
When I became a member of EW, I agreed to uphold EW’s bylaws, in which it says that the community provides for the needs of its members, and that it strives to be a cultural model accessible to all people. If those two provisions are still in the EW Bylaws then I charge the community with having child policies that contradict both its founding and probably its current statement of ideals. This is hypocrisy. Are not children a basic need for people? How can a society that treats children as does EW call itself in any positive way a “model society?” I reject any argument that justifies some people persecuting others for having children, even if the community has or does remove those statements from the EW Bylaws. East Wind’s child policies makes the community a dystopia for many of us. And as long as we continue to say and do nothing we are all complicit.
So, what is to be done?
Communal society without children is not only a model like Catholic Monasticism, it is also the model of the ancient Jewish Essenes in Palestine, and probably also of the Pythagoreans both before them and contemporary with the Essenes. They developed a movement model that involved two “orders” of Essenes, or two levels of membership. One was communal and celibate, with the main Essene center being at Qumran, and the other was of householder families in small collective communities around the country. Also, around Catholic monasteries in Europe and elsewhere there tended to arise villages comprised in part of family members of the monastics. We see this communitarian model today, of two closely related community systems revolving around each other, one communal and one collective, the latter having children and the former not. Examples are Yogaville, near Buckingham Virginia, on the James River above Richmond, and at Ananda Village in California, and likely in the case of other communities elsewhere as well. Twin Oaks spawned several collective communities nearby, usually resulting from its Communities Conferences, although not very close nearby, two of them called Springtree and Shannon Farm. I think that Baker Branch started from TO inspiration, becoming a branch of The Farm for a while, now having former TO members for most of its residents.
This is my suggestion for a response by the Federation of Egalitarian Communities (FEC) to EW’s institution of the Pregnancy Ultimatum: create collective community close by EW for people with children to join when they have to leave EW. Helping to support such a community is the least that EW could do in order to honor its stated principle of taking care of the needs of its members, with regard to children.
Yes, East Wind Refugees (Susan Minyard was the first ex-Ewer to use that term as far as I know, when she returned for an annual Land Day celebration) have settled at Sweetwater 50 miles away, and others at Terra Nova 200 miles away, and at other communities, yet I am talking about being in the EW neighborhood, like within walking, bicycling, canoeing, or horseback riding distance.
If East Wind is at all sensitive to the problems caused by its Pregnancy Ultimatum, I say that the community can redeem its reputation and its “soul” by donating some portion of its (roughly) 1,000 acres to a collective community, to be structured as a community land trust (CLT). I believe that Sweetwater is part of the Ozark Regional Land Trust (ORLT), and another community 20 or 30 miles away from EW called Hawk Hill also, so help is easily available in establishing a CLT. The proposed community could join ORLT, or create its own CLT, with EW having some seats on the board, like maybe a third, since it would be donating the land. Then EW could offer this community as a home for its “pregnancy refugees.”
I would want to enable the collective community to have as close a relationship with EW as possible, in order to maintain friendships and mutual aid between the communities. Therefore I suggest that EW donate to a collective community some of its land up the gravel road, where the road Ys. Down the west fork would be the communal group, and down the east fork would be the collective group.
Also, a community has to have a business to survive in the Ozarks, as East Wind has found, in order to not be seen as a threat by the locals who may otherwise be concerned about big groups of people taking the few jobs that exist in Ozark County, and EW and the FEC could help with that.
I also recommend a close proximity and relationship between EW and its satellite community or communities, because EW is simply a very nice community! It’s 1,000 acres is beautiful land, and its culture (besides the child issue) is a wonderful manifestation of egalitarianism! The goal is to not facilitate people leaving their home, rather to preserve some relationship of the refugees to the mother-ship community.
I like to point out that not having many children, East Wind is essentially the Federation’s “party commune!” Much like the fictional Star Trek planet, Risa, called the United Federation of Planets’ “pleasure planet,” East Wind is one of the closest things to utopia most of us will ever find in this life, partly because of its remoteness!
A couple thoughts about this come to mind. First of all, from my experience, I suspect that EW has had for a while what we called a “labor crunch.” There is much more that EW could do if it had more labor. When I was there around 1980 we ended our dairy and other agricultural programs for a while (not sure of the dates) in order to start having children, which was labor intensive with a communal childcare system. Now EW does not have a communal childcare system or very many children, yet it has put lots of resources into agricultural programs. That is a great thing, yet that plus the businesses take a lot of labor, which means that they have not a lot of labor to devote to the construction of housing and other domestic needs. A closely related, collective community nearby could share the work: business, agricultural, and construction. In the past EW did hire labor help from Edge City, the community that donated to EW the Dome (they moved it on a flatbed truck along the narrow, winding Route 160!), so EW could hire labor from a daughter community as well.
Twin Oaks does this also, hiring construction and maintenance people from its satellite communities.
Another thing I think about is that some year soon Missouri could legalize hemp. EW could easily then grow lots of hemp on its government flood plain (or if not there then on its own land), and use it in hempcrete for building housing. Also, EW has lots of Ozark rock that it could build with, plus most of those 1,000 acres are wooded. EW has a saw mill and makes some of its own lumber. So with inexpensive lumber, rock, and hempcrete, it could build lots of housing and other structures, as could a daughter collective community. Just add labor!
So rather than continue to kick out perfectly good members, EW could adopt the collective community design and help it get established and thrive. Not only with regard to housing, yet also with business sharing. How hard would it be for a new community to purchase roasted nuts from EW, add chocolate, and sell it? Start small and build up the business. Just need money for investment.
Okay, what is the chance that EW would donate land to a collective child-friendly CLT within walking distance? Probably, not very good.
The next best idea is then for interested and caring people to invest in purchasing land close to EW for the EW pregnancy refugees. For that the Community Land Co-operative (CLC) might be best. This uses the Real Estate Investment Co-operative (REIC), which could involve people investing while not being residents. Exactly how that would be set up requires research, as a CLC is different from a CLT with regard to real estate equity. I am thinking of using some of either the equity or rent profit from my real estate in Denver to help buy land or otherwise help establish a collective EW satellite. I kind of would like to get back-to-the-land, once I get more books published.
Finding land for sale next to or even close to EW may be difficult. Might take a long time, or the land might be some distance from EW. Still, the idea is worth working with. One possibility is that the Ozark Regional Land Trust has acquired a tract of land bordering Bryant Creek just upstream from Techumseh, the closest village to EW. Purchasing land contiguous with this land trust would put a new collective community within canoeing distance and bicycling distance from EW.
I would say that the “EW satellite refugee land co-op” idea would be good for the Federation (FEC) to consider supporting. Why? Because as I wrote earlier in this article, “it is incumbent upon all of us, and the Federation in particular, to respond to the drama, travesty, and personal tragedy of the institution of East Wind Community’s ‘Pregnancy Ultimatum’.”
As a communities movement, I believe that the FEC needs to make some pronouncement with regard to EW’s Pregnancy Ultimatum. Silence in this matter is tacit acceptance, and at least indirect complicity. This article is actually my suggestion for how the FEC can best respond to the EW child policies dystopia.
The Federation would have to make some changes in order to advocate and support collective community for its displaced parent refugees, since its current reason-for-being is to support communalism, yet this is part of what I mean about assessing and stating what we have learned about communalism at this 50-year anniversary of the egalitarian communities movement.
At this point in time, with people looking more toward cultural alternatives, the FEC cannot ignore the onerous child policies of the birthplace-community of the Federation of Egalitarian Communities. Responding to this problem now on the occasion of Twin Oaks’ 50th Anniversary is essential to any kind of review or promulgation of communal culture, based upon our experiences in our counterculture.
What have we learned about children in communal society? What can we say about it? I am offering here to the FEC and everyone else my perspective. Please work with it as you like.
There is one more thing to be said. I mentioned above that I would also talk about outreach. I wrote above about how very few people outside of our communities know about our success with our labor systems, let alone what we know about children in communal society. I have a personal campaign for teaching people about alternative culture in general, and about our egalitarian culture in particular, through the initiative I am calling the “School of Intentioneering.” And in that effort I have found another issue to be discussed.
In most of the progressive or liberal culture, TO, EW, the FEC and all the rest are essentially invisible. This is not just because of the bias against communalism on the part of most people, yet also because the term “communalism” does not always mean what we think it means.
I only discovered this recently. It had been a point of confusion for me for many years. Do you know that in the dictionary the first definition for the term “communalism” is the political model of decentralized city governance? I thought it only referred to economic systems of common ownership, yet that is the second definition. Evidently “communalism” as an economic term comes from England, while “communalism” as a political term comes from France.
It actually goes back to the Paris Commune of 1871. I will not write that history here. I’ve already posted one blog and Facebook item explaining this, so I’ll just say now that it was Murray Bookchin of the Institute for Social Ecology who began writing articles and books using “communalism” to refer to what he had earlier called “confederal municipalism,” and that others call “democratic confederalism.” These are all the same thing, basically just a decentralized polity enabling more local self-governance, applied to the political structure of towns and cities, which usually have nothing like “communal” economics as we live it in Federation communities.
For my writing I’ve used the term “regional commonwealth” to mean about the same thing that Bookchin and friends mean by “communalism.” I affirm that a number of intentional communities in a given area essentially create what Bookchin and others mean by “confederalism,” and I tried to present this to Murray Bookchin and others when I attended a summer Social Ecology institute in Vermont. They did not seem to care. Soon after, Bookchin started using “communalism” in place of his earlier term “confederal municipalism.”
Now, more and more the term “communalism” is being used for its political definition rather than its economic definition. Some of the Kurdish people are using the theory and the term in their efforts at self-determination in their non-state culture.
Essentially, the Federation communities are invisible, with the economic term for what we are being usurped by other countercultural movements. Even Naomi Klein uses the term “communalism” in its political definition in her recent book, “This Changes Everything” (find the term in her index). Does anyone besides me care about this and want to do something about it?
Yes, I think that before we, or I, or the Federation, can be really very public about our applications of communalism in our lives, past, present, or future, we need to have something to say about our experiences with children in community. We cannot ignore this issue and have much credibility with any other issue. How much do we have to sacrifice our desire to have children on the altar of the ideal of economic communalism?
Federation communities have a great story as regards our labor systems which enable the equality of women and men. Yet we cannot go far talking about that if we cannot or do not know how to talk about children in communal society.
I believe that it is essential to get our stories straight with regard to what we have learned about children in communal society. I have outlined here much of what I have to say about the subject, and I am publishing and speaking about my views as much as I can through the School of Intentioneering.
For anyone interested in the background, I have written much about the history of communalism in my book, “The Intentioneers’ Bible.” Find it for sale on Amazon. While I discuss the EW Pregnancy Ultimatum in that writing, I included much more about TO and EW in that book than I have written here.
A. Allen Butcher
The School of Intentioneering
February 25, 2017
Until I finally looked them up I thought that the terms “communal” and “communalism” referred to the same thing, the common ownership of property, yet “communalism” actually means something very different.
To avoid confusing the terms as have I, keep in mind that “communalism” is a political system in which independent states comprise a nation which has very little or no central authority, having only powers granted to it by the independent states, which they can recind or modify at any time. And further, those independent states in the communalist system can have internal economic systems which emphasize either private property, or common property, or a mixture of both. They need not be strictly communal as the term would seem to suggest.
Essentially, “communal” is an economic term while “communalism” is a political or governance term.
It took me a decade to finally look these terms up at Dictionary.com, after I first learned that Murray Bookchin had used the term “communalism” in place of the term he devised of “confederal municipalism” to mean the same thing. Evidently, it took him a while to realize that there was already a term for the decentralist ideal which he advocated.
According to Dictionary.com the term “communalism” was first used to mean a decentralized nation of independent states in the early 1870s. So Bookchin did not make this up or change the definition, as I thought he had.
With this understanding I might now be able to get behind Bookchin’s concept of “communalism,” except that if I use this term in its correct meaning, other people are still going to confuse the term to mean “communal” in the same way as have I. Particularly those who wish to preserve the centralized nation-state.
So for me the term “communalism” is not the best way to convey the intended meaning of the decentralized, confederal political system. “Confederal” also means power-to-the-states as opposed to centralized “federalism.” Yet using the term “confederal” brings association with the slave-states’ Confederacy and the American Civil War, so that term is problematic as well.
Eleanor Finley’s ROAR magazine article, “Reason, Creativity and Freedom: the Communalist Model” (February 11, 2017) suggests that someone else who has been influenced by Murray Bookchin’s ideas also did not like the term “communalism,” coining for use in its place the term “democratic confederalism.” This term was created by the imprisoned Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan, looking for a political system for his nationlesss ethnic group scattered through parts of Turkey, Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere. Yet there is that problematic term “confederal” again. (See: https://roarmag.org/essays/communalism-bookchin-direct-democracy)
So what term can be used for conveying the intended meaning while avoiding misunderstanding and negative associations? The term “democracy” or “democratic” is an essential modifier for conveying the ideal of local self-determination and independence from centralization, so that word is needed. A noun that conveys the intended meaning of independence is “decentralism,” and so the term that I think best represents the desired meaning for the preferred political-economic system is then “democratic-decentralism.” I suppose that will get shortened to “dem-decism” or simply “D-D,” yet at least there should no longer be any confusion about what we are talking about as the best of all possible political systems.
Democratic-decentralism may actually be seen, eventually, as representing the ideals of both the radical left and right, showing that on the political scale of liberalism-to-conservatism, when you take the extremes far enough, they eventually curve around to come together in agreement. This shows the viability and efficacy of the political structures of “democratic-decentralism.”
What remains for clarification is just what a democratic-decentralist nation-state would look like. It certainly would not look like the current government of the United States of America. The first constitution written by the original thirteen American Colonies specified a confederal system, which was soon scrapped for the centralized Constitution that we know and (more-or-less) love. That was done for a reason, and it is hard to see America going back to confederalism, yet previously I could not envision America going where it is now headed under president number 45, so perhaps if the current conservative national administration continues the way it seems to be going, democratic-decentalism may become a national issue.
From the forthcoming book: Intentioneers and Illuminati
A. Allen Butcher
Book IX: Chapter 4−Section 6 of the Intentioneers Series • See chapter list at end of article
Affirming the importance of sharing wealth as well as labor between women and men, the definition of “cofamily” would be, “three-to-nine unrelated adults affirming a common identity or affinity, while sharing privately-owned property with labor-gifting (i.e., collective community), or sharing commonly-owned property with labor-sharing (i.e., communal society).” The focus upon a common affinity is the “spirited” ideal, and the processes of labor-gifting and labor-sharing provide for the “joyous” feeling of people working together for mutual benefit.
Cofamily community could serve to take sharing and cooperation as an economic process the next step into the mainstream culture as a communitarian movement beyond the cohousing movement, further supporting the reversal of our cultural emphasis upon possessiveness and competition through the practices of gifting and sharing in small affinity groups.
By adding a focus upon sharing privately-owned or commonly-owned property to one of the most basic and most expensive needs, specifically housing, the dominant or mainstream culture may gradually be changed to an appreciation of sharing in community, which has already begun with cohousing more than with any other community movement since the earliest housing co-operatives. As cohousing becomes ever more mainstream, this growing movement can provide opportunities for other forms of community to advance the practice of gifting and sharing in general, and intentional community in particular.
The emphasis upon cultural and social affinities in cofamily communities results in complexities which must also be addressed, in these cases through the study and application of interpersonal and group processes. (For examples of group processes see: “Light and Shadows: Interpersonal and Group Process in the Sharing Lifestyle” by the present author, at: http://www.culturemagic.org/Intentioneering.html)
The potential for communitarian answers to the needs of people in the dominant culture is seen in studies such as those of the U.S. Census Bureau and of the Pew Research Center. These studies of the American family show that the “American Dream” of the happy nuclear family is not working for many people. The statistics can be interpreted to present the case for community, or at least some form of collective family that does not rely upon marriage and biology only, instead a type of family that emphasizes adults’ commitment to the domestic living group or community they create.
For general background, first consider that for all households, including single-parents, the average number of family members dropped from about 3.3 people in 1967 to about 2.6 people in 2014. (“America’s Families and Living Arrangements: 2015” at http://www.census.gov/hhes/families/data/adults.html, figures: AD-3a, HH-6)
Further, the 2015 Census Bureau statistics show that:
1. The number of married-adult households has been steadily dropping to now about half of all households. (“America’s Families and Living Arrangements: 2015” at http://www.census.gov/hhes/families/data/adults.html, figures: AD-3a, HH-6)
2. The number of adults living alone is now over a third of all households. (www.census.gov/hhes/families/data/households.html, figures: HH-4, HH-7b)
3. The number of children living in single-parent households increased to over a quarter of all the children in America, and half of those live in poverty. (“America’s Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being: 2015” at http://www.childstats.gov/americaschildren/family1.asp; see also http://www.census.gov/hhes/families/data/children.html, figure CH-1)
4. Over a third of all women with more than one child had them with more than one father, called “multiple-partner fertility.” (“America’s Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being: 2015” at
http://www.childstats.gov/americaschildren/family1.asp; Guzzo, 2014; Logan, Manlove, Ikramullah, & Cottingham, 2006; Martin, 2011)
From these statistics it is clear that the nuclear family is not working for a large number of Americans. Therefore, it is becoming increasingly helpful to recognize another form of family which better reflects America’s changing demographics and lifestyle choices, named by the current author the “cofamily.”
While cultural conservatives continue to emphasize the nuclear family, cultural progressives recognize the need for adults (more so than government) to support single women who become pregnant in keeping their children rather than getting an abortion, and in supporting those single-parents as their children are growing up. For those for whom the nuclear family ideal has failed, the cofamily is a solution.
Non-nuclear families, involving three-to-nine adults forming cooperative, collective, or communal families obviously needs a name to distinguish these small communities from nuclear families, and so the term “cofamily” was coined for whatever relationships may develop within the group, and for however those relationships may change over time.
While the traditional nuclear family will never go away, extensions of it have always existed. The term “extended-family” means including other family members, like aunts, cousins, grandparents, or grandchildren of the nuclear family in the same household, and so the idea of more than two adults in mutual aid is neither new nor untested. More and more, however, particularly as the population continues to polarize between liberal and conservative factions, the desire and need is to include with the biological family other non-biologically-related adults, especially if they also have children, for two reasons. One is in order for parents to be able to help each other with childcare and other domestic labor, and the second reason is for people to be able to live with others of like mind. These “affinity-families” create intentional communities rather than extended-families, and since the biological and marriage ties are less emphasized, something else has to provide the glue or the rationalization for people to practice small-group mutual aid, which usually means finding common interests, values, or goals. These are the affinities among people important to the creation and maintenance of community.
With the conservative, religious-right defining the ideal family model as being the supposedly God-sanctioned nuclear design of father, mother, and children, a different term is needed for affinity-based families which can be comprised of any number of adults of either gender, with or without children. For this the term “cofamily” is offered. (See: book IX, chapter 9, “Communitarian Mysticism,” Section 1 “Family Lifestyles Over the Ages: Matriarchy, Patriarchy, and Partnership”)
The term “cofamily” has an obvious connection with the term “cohousing,” while the meanings are very different. The Cohousing Association of the U.S.A. has a very limited definition for the term “cohousing,” with six specific criteria to which a cohousing community is expected to adhere. Many groups calling themselves “cohousing” do not follow all of these criteria, and so a different name is needed for their type of community. Essentially, any small group of people less than ten whose community does not fit the classic cohousing model (explained on the cohousing.org website) can instead call themselves a “cofamily community,” or simply a “cofamily,” while ten or more adults in community can use the term “intentional community.” An “intentional community” is defined as comprising three or more adults, yet for small groups the “cofamily” name suggests a more intimate lifestyle. In fact some people actually leave cohousing community in order to find a more intimate form of community, which requires a smaller group of people.
Setting the number of people in a cofamily community of three-to-nine is not entirely arbitrary, as first there has to be a minimum number of people for comprising a community, and second, a maximum number is necessary for respecting the intimate nature of a communitarian family.
The idea of limiting the cofamily community model to less than ten adults is suggested by psychologists who affirm that seven or eight adults is the optimum size for intense small-group communication, because that is generally the maximum number of different thoughts that the human brain can keep present in mind at one time. The military commonly uses this number of individuals for its squads or service units, from air force to infantry, and consensus process facilitators typically break out large plenary groups into seven or eight-person small-groups for discussing complicated issues.
The best number of people to live together in community is probably specific to each group of people, their individual emotional constitutions, the visions they articulate and share, the material aspects of their location, the resources they have available, and the gifting and sharing processes they develop. Optimum numbers of members can be found for different types of communities, and for each there are different cultural and historical factors involved.
The paleo-anthropologist Richard Leakey in his 1978 book with Roger Lewin titled “People of the Lake: Mankind and its Beginnings” gives the number 25 as the optimum size for the “gatherer-hunter economy,” and of 500 for the “dialectical tribe.” Along with the birth interval of a maximum of one child every four years for women, due to the difficulty of nursing and childcare in the wild, these numbers are specific to the subsistence, nomadic culture. (Leakey & Lewin, p. 111)
“Dunbar’s Number” is another perspective on the optimum number of people for a clan, small tribe, or neo-tribal intentional community. The British anthropologist Robin Dunbar suggests that an individual can reasonably keep track in one’s mind of around 150 people. This, writes Dunbar, is the number of people “with whom a stable inter-personal relationship can be maintained.” (Robin Dunbar, quoted in Ryan & Jethá, p. 171)
The communal Hutterite Colonies in the plains states and provinces typically grow to 100 or 150 adults plus children then split into two communities of more-or-less equal size, both of which continue the grow-split cycle. (Oved, p. 351) As of about 1997 there were about 400 Hutterite Colonies with about 40,000 people. (Pitzer, p. 8)
In contrast, some of the Israeli kibbutzim have around 1,000 members each, although it is unclear how many of them are still communal. In the “Encyclopedia of Community” Daniel Gavron reports that, “Some kibbutzim have joined together in a movement called the Communal Stream, in an attempt to preserve and protect traditional ways. This movement includes about a dozen veteran kibbutzim and a similar number of new urban communes and experimental settlements, …” However, Ben Hartman reported a somewhat larger number of kibbutzim in a January 25, 2010 “Jerusalem Post” article titled, “Only 25% of Kibbutzim Still Adhere to Collective Model.” Whatever is the exact number, a substantial fraction of kibbutzim are resisting the trend toward privatization of their communal economies, particularly refusing the paying of differential wages for different types of work, which is the red line between communalism and individualism. (Gavron, p. 727; Hartman, 2010)
As of 2008 the Kibbutz movement had a population of about 106,000 people in 256 kibbutzim with varying degrees of economic sharing. (See: http://www.kibbutz.org.il/eng/welcome.htm) This averages to around 400 members per kibbutz, although the most common size would be 200 to 300. The kibbutz movement is now growing with people moving into the newly privatized communities, and with the recent trend of new urban kibbutzim being founded involving about an additional 100 communities in Israel. (See: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kibbutz)
In “Cohousing: A Contemporary Approach to Housing Ourselves” the authors Kathryn McCamant and Charles Durrett state that in Europe cohousing communities with more than “40 dwellings have been divided into smaller clusters.” They also quote cohousing residents as saying that just over 60 adults is ideal so that teams of two adults each only have to cook the common evening meal for the community once a month. This size community is also small enough to practice direct democracy in community meetings. (McCamant & Durrett, pp. 159-61)
There appears to be no particular population size that can definitively be said to be the best for community, whether religious or secular, communal or collective. While the larger communities get all the attention, small communities of from three-to-nine adults are often overlooked, although they account for 40% of the listings for communities of three or more adults in the 2010 “Communities Directory.”
Taking the idea of intimacy in community to its logical end is what is known today as “polyamory,” involving intimate relationships between more than two adults, such as a triad (three adults) or a quad (two couples), or even more than four adults of either gender. While “polyandry” involves one female and two or more males in an intimate relationship, and “polygyny” involves the opposite, polyamory simply makes no reference to gender in multiple intimate relationships.
As practiced today, polyamorous relationships involve the “full knowledge and free consent of everyone involved.” Such relationships may change over time, while the partners in a stable “multiple-marriage” or “polyfidelity” relationship may all live together in the same residence. Polyamory existed in many ancient tribal cultures like the Celts, and it exists today around the world. (See: wikipedia.org/wiki/polyamory)
With same-gender marriage now legal in the United States, polyamory may become the next lifestyle pattern to become commonly accepted. When polyamory involves three or more adults living together a form of intentional community results. While other forms of intentional community may involve only monogamous relationships, or serial monogamy as a succession of marriages and divorces, or even celibacy in monastic society, polyamory assumes the presence of at least three adults in close relationship.
People in community together create the culture in which they want to live. However much they may deviate from the cultural assumptions presumed to be of the dominant culture, the essential value of the neo-tribal aspect of intentional community is the mutual support among a group of people for their chosen lifestyle.
While the term “cofamily” is not yet an established term for small communities, the need to focus upon the development of small communities is seen in the fact that they comprise at least 40% of the communities directories. This need to concentrate upon developing an identity or tradition for small intentional communities may result in the “cofamily” becoming the first new intentional community movement of the 21st century!
Previous books in the Intentioneers Series by A. Allen Butcher:
The Intentioneer’s Bible
Interwoven Stories of the Parallel Cultures of Plenty and Scarcity
I The Book of Ideals
II Egalitarianism in the Ancient World
III Egalitarianism in the Early Christian Era
IV Egalitarianism in Secular and Tribal Culture
V Communitarianism in the 19th Century
VI Communitarianism in the 20th Century
VII Intentioneering the 21st Century
VIII The Book of Intuitions
The Intentioneer’s Bible is available in ebook format at Amazon.com • Published May, 2016
Forthcoming book in the Intentioneers Series, for which “Cofamily” is a chapter:
Intentioneers and Illuminati
Interweaving the Parallel Cultures of Plenty and Scarcity
via Myth, Allegory, Reason, and Mysticism
[IX:4-1 = Book:Chapter-Section]
IX:1 The Love of Gifting and Sharing is the Root of Happiness!
IX:2 The Fellowship of Intentioneers and the Lord of Currencies
IX:3 Answers to the Anguish of the Ages
IX:4 Cofamily: Raising Children in Community
IX:5 Class Harmony: 2027 Socialism Bi-Centennial
IX:6 Correspondences of the Fellowship Allegory to the Real World
IX:7 Parallel Cultures: The Fourth World’s Plenty Economics in the First World’s Scarcity Economy
IX:8 Economics of the Golden Rule
IX:9 Communitarian Mysticism
A. Allen Butcher, The School of Intentioneering, Denver, CO, Nov., 2016
In times like these, with a solidly Republican national government resulting from the 2016 presidential election, plus more state governments turning Republican, it is clear that advancing and even holding steady on progressive causes in America is soon to become much more difficult. During times like these, with protests in the streets against a new president who is not yet in power, many people begin looking for alternatives. Talk about moving out of the country suggests that Canada might be a viable destination, except that American citizens cannot get jobs there, so only the well-off can pull-off that rescue. Meanwhile, to many others, times like these result in the American counterculture entering a new period of enthusiasm, growth, and influence in the dominant culture. Welcome to the sixth resurgence of the Fourth World, the American counterculture existing within the dominant First World culture!
Accompanying this article is a graphic intended to represent the political-economic theory of the parallel cultures of the First and Fourth Worlds. Use of the Taoist Taijitu or “yin-yang” symbol to diagram the two opposing yet intertwined economic systems of taking and exchanging versus gifting and sharing serves to emphasize the interdependence of debt-based monetary and non-monetary time-based economic systems. Both are needed, and while the monetary system gets most of the attention in the First World, the time-based economies at the level of the family and community nurtures children and adults through unpaid household labor for engagement in the dominant culture’s monetary system. The processes of mutual aid in the family and community represented by the rainbow rings, show how people are able to push the monetary system out of our lives, to various degrees. Each of the rainbow rings is labeled with a different communitarian value or structure, of which “rational altruism” and “communal society” are the most successful in creating the non-monetary, parallel culture.
The use of the term “parallel cultures” emphasizes the concept of two symbiotic cultures in a dynamic system, much like the concept of “opposites attract.” Emphasizing the synergistic aspects of opposing economic paradigms serves to retire the Marxist communist concept that someday the counterculture of solidarity, called by Marxists the “dictatorship of the proletariat,” will replace the dominant culture’s drive toward the dictatorship of the plutocracy. While progressive causes are on a long trajectory toward parity with the conservative paradigm, replacing one paradigm entirely with its opposite only replaces one form of extremism with another, when the goal of economic stability and sustainability requires a balance of opposing paradigms.
It is partly to refuse Marxist communist theory and to distance the Fourth World from it that The School of Intentioneering was created to advocate the use of new terminology like “intentioneering” in place of the term “communitarianism,” and to develop theories on balancing the opposing paradigms in the concept of “parallel cultures.” The School of Intentioneering advocates the replacement of both Marxist authoritarianism and anarchist anti-statism with advocacy for the local self-determination of gifting and sharing cultures for reducing their reliance upon or exposure to monetary economics, within a global culture dominated by the monetary economic system. In response to the Marxist concepts of “scientific socialism” versus “utopian socialism,” The School of Intentioneering offers a history of the rise of civilization emphasizing that the counterculture exists in parallel with the dominant culture, the two learning from and benefiting from each other over time toward a form of human civilization that will hopefully be more stable and sustainable. This new history and future projections was published in May, 2016 with the title The Intentioneer’s Bible, currently available only in digital format on Amazon.com.
While there are many terms in use for representing the two political-economic systems of the dominant and the alternative cultures, the most explanatory are “First World” and “Fourth World.” The political-economic term “First World” refers to market-based economies, while the “Second World” are state-controlled economies found in communist countries. The familiar “Third World” are the countries developing toward one of the first two, while the “Fourth World” are small countries or subcultures within any of the first three that are happy with their locally-controlled political-economic forms and are not trying to become like any of the other three.
Along with the various forms of intentional community and many other cultural alternatives, the Fourth World includes indigenous cultures refusing assimilation by the dominant, First World culture. There is a natural affinity between tribal cultures everywhere in the world with the counterculture, as both seek to be outside of the dominant culture’s monetary greed and avarice. Native Americans and those who deliberately leave the dominant First World culture for the Fourth World are therefore natural allies, as can be seen during periodic times of collaboration between the two, such as what is happening in North Dakota with the Seven Council Fires of the Sioux inviting its Fourth World allies to aid its blockade of an oil pipeline.
Many of us in America’s counterculture or parallel culture have understood that times of progress toward economic justice and a more complete political enfranchisement comes and goes in cycles. For many of us in the intentional communities wing of the counterculture, formerly called “communitarians,” now named by the present author “intentioneers,” much of our work has been pursued with the thought that gifting and sharing in community is the answer to most if not all of the world’s problems. We watched the cooling of American radicalism of the 1960s and ‘70s become the ‘80s “Big Chill,” knowing that eventually the course of human events would bring another time of tribulations, and the response of popular organizing for local self-reliance, sharing, and solidarity.
While some progressive changes have occurred since the 1970s, such as legal marijuana, same-gender marriage, and women training for combat in the military, many problems remain and have become worse. We knew at the time of the first Earth Day in 1970 that the increasing human population growth-rate on the planet is not sustainable, that we were entering a time of species extinction, and that a host of problems would result from global warming, a view that has finally been generally accepted.
In the early 1970s President Nixon ended the gold standard to base our currency upon government fiat, resulting in the only backing of the currency being Federal Reserve promises to maintain our monetary system. Changing to fiat money was actually proposed by the Texas state Farmers Alliance meeting of 1886, since adherence to the gold standard made it difficult for farmers to obtain financing for annual planting when the country’s economy was still largely agricultural. The gold standard prevented expansion of the money supply when farmers needed it, so they advocated government fiat money instead. Of course, there are problems with any monetary system, and fiat money, along with the financialization of the economy, has become ever more difficult to manage as seen with the 2007-8 Great Recession and the rescue called “quantitative easing,” which is probably helping to set up the economy for the next great fall. (See: The Intentioneer’s Bible, book VI, chapter 9, “National Banks, the Gold Standard, and Fiat Money;” book VII, chapter 2, “Casino Capitalism and the Great Recession;” and book VII, chapter 6, “The Return of Casino Capitalism”)
Anticipating an eventual return of hard times, many people in the communities movement, that is, many intentioneers, have focused upon developing resources through the last four decades or so to help others find and build community for themselves, their family and friends. Now after the economic disaster of the Great Recession and the political reversal of the Republican wins of 2016, the intentional communities wing of the American counterculture is ready to support people in building locally the kind of lifestyle that many people most want to enjoy—the communitarian culture of gifting and sharing!
There are now several different models for how people can live in peace and harmony through mutual aid, pushing the monetary system out of our lives through adopting alternative economic systems of gifting and sharing. These models include the various types of intentional community with which many people may already be familiar, specifically: housing cooperatives, cohousing, and other forms of collectivism sharing privately-owned property with labor-gifting; monastery, ashram, egalitarian society, and other forms of communalism sharing commonly-owned property with labor-sharing; and mixtures of common and of private property in the community land trust and other economically-diverse communities, such as those having a communal core-group from whom the non-communal members of the community rent their living space. In addition there are also forms of intentional community that can have any kind of structure, whether collective, communal, or economically-diverse. These are ecovillages, which are any size group of people living together with ecological sustainability as their primary commonality, and cofamilies, which are small groups of three-to-nine people who may adopt any type of gifting or sharing system with or without agreement on a common affinity or a formal political-economic structure. Ecovillages and cofamilies may be happy to carry on with no formal structure for their small group, or may be on their way to becoming one of the more specific political-economic models of intentional community listed above.
For most people the idea of living in a culture that replaces monetary economics with time-based gifting and sharing processes is not just radical, it is incomprehensible! Yet basing a culture upon the ideals of the Golden Rule is neither foreign nor heretical. America was founded by people wanting to build something different from what they had experienced in the Old World, and they found models of participatory governance in practice among the indigenous peoples of the Americas, which were copied for use in our American Constitution and in other aspects of our form of governance. At the same time, the lessons of the European Protestant Reformation were also written into our constitution, with the idea of “individual election” affirming that people must be able to choose their own religion, transitioning into governance and politics with the concept of “one person, one vote.”
There have been five prior waves of communitarian enthusiasm in North America, with the first beginning in the 1600s and 1700s involving Protestant religious groups including the German/Swiss Pietists and English Separatists. The second wave landed in the 1840s with both religious and non-religious communities such as the Anarchist Socialist, Associationist, Christian Socialist, Mutualist Cooperative, Owenites, Icarians, and Perfectionsts. The third wave of New World communitarianism crested in the 1890s after a succession of economic recessions or short depressions, fifty years after the second wave. The Hutterites, Mennonites and Amish had begun arriving in the 1870s, and the ’90s saw many other religious, socialist, and anarchist communities, and the first New Towns and Georgist single-tax colonies. The fourth wave came forty years later with the Great Depression of the 1930s and the New Deal government-sponsored Green Belt towns, the Catholic Worker, and the first Emissary communities. The fifth wave hit in the 1960s and ’70s as a massive Baby-Boom-inspired cultural revolution, this time just thirty years later. The sixth wave has broken the pattern of ever shortening interludes between movements, with this current resurgence beginning forty years later. For details on these historical communitarian movements see the Amazon ebook by the present author titled: The Intentioneer’s Bible.
The American intentional communities movement, and probably those in Europe and elsewhere, began its resurgence after the Great Recession of 2007-8, although aspects of it began decades earlier. There are at least six developments contributing to this resurgence:
First, the Fellowship for Intentional Community was reorganized in 1986 from an association begun in America in the late 1940s, after the Second World War. The reformed Fellowship began to make a range of information resources available to people about intentional community, including topics such as legal incorporation and participatory governance, through a magazine, videos, conferences, and a directory of communities which has continually increased its listings with each successive Communities Directory. [See Communities magazine and Directory at: http://www.ic.org]
Second, the Cohousing Association of the U.S. recently announced a “500 Communities” project, involving the training of developers, architects, builders, bankers and other financiers in the values, procedures and design parameters for creating a specific form of intentional community, which they often call the “intentional neighborhood.” This is very exciting as it shows that all of the functions of standard real estate development can and are working for the counterculture! The cohousing wing of the counterculture in some cases even uses gentrification in replacing the ongoing loss of older circumstantial neighborhood communities with intentional community. Much of the 500 Communities initiative involves an emphasis upon senior cohousing, in addition to the original focus of cohousing upon creating safe and nurturing community for children in inter-generational communities.
Third, the communal network called the Federation of Egalitarian Community’s (FEC) is engaged in a project of seeding new urban communal groups in East Coast cities. This has resulted in the March, 2016 FEC Assembly admitting more new communities at one meeting than ever before, nearly doubling the number of FEC-identified communities. Of course the new groups are much smaller than the established communities. While the Federation’s track record for helping new communities survive is not good, the FEC is able to do more now to help new communities than it could in the past due to its continued growth.
Fourth, the worker-ownership movement is finally getting some traction. Although worker-owned businesses are not intentional communities, those communities that do have businesses often set them up as worker-owned co-ops. Most sources state that there were only 300 worker-owned businesses known in the U.S. until recently. The group that is doing the most for worker-ownership now seems to be “The Democracy Collaborative” and their “Next System Project.” They are doing great things, such as helping the Lakota Sioux tribe to create worker-owned businesses in the Dakotas, and working along with the United Steel Workers union to create worker-ownership in America’s rust-belt cities similar to the Mondragon cooperative network in northern Spain. Then there is also the Solidarity Economy movement’s focus upon worker-ownership, which is stronger in Latin America, Canada, and Europe and elsewhere than it is in America. Worker-ownership is part of many collective intentional communities, although in communal society the appropriate term for it is “community-ownership.”
Fifth, the ecovillage movement appears to be continually growing around the world. While the various ecovillage network websites do not seem to keep track of the number of ecovillages in existence, the Fellowship for Intentional Community reported in its 2010 Directory that the number of communities that adopted the identity of “ecovillage” increased from seven percent in the 2007 Directory to 32 percent in the 2010 Directory (page 12). Much of this increase, however, could be coming from existing intentional communities adopting the ecovillage identity, rather than from new ecovillages being formed.
Sixth, “New Monasticism” seems to be inspiring a new Christian community movement, now becoming noticeably active after its beginnings in the 1980s. The Twelve Tribes or Messianic communities continue to found a few additional Yellow Cafes around the country, including back where they began in Chattanooga, Tennessee, although like most communal societies they are finding it difficult to keep their children in community once they reach adulthood. The ChristianLivingCommunities.org website shows that Christians are organizing communities in different parts of the country to help support aging Christians. This is similar to how the ageinplace.org website advocates “intentional neighboring” through inter-generational communities supporting young and old practicing “reciprocal support.” [Note: appreciations to Prof. Timothy Miller of the Univ. of Kansas for some of this Christian community material.]
One of the unique aspects of this sixth resurgence of communitarianism is that unlike any before there is now a form of intentional community created specifically for the older, Baby Boom generation. While inter-generational communities are sometimes called “intentional neighborhoods,” for older adults there is “senior cohousing.” Developing independently from cohousing, community for the aged is being supported by some non-profit, affordable housing organizations using names like “Elder Spirit,” “Elder Shire,” and “Village to Village.”
And for young adults desiring a community in which to raise children, who may not be able to afford middle-class cohousing community, there is the term offered by the current author: “cofamily.” Cofamily community is a take-off from “cohousing,” with cofamily being everything that cohousing is not, particularly the design of having an overt, shared spiritual, religious, ethnic, cultural, or other identity among a small number of people. A cofamily is comprised of three-to-nine unrelated adults, with or without children. In some cases a cofamily may be specifically created to support single-parents and their child or children, as a way for friends to support single women having children who may otherwise choose abortion. When raising children in community is the reason for the community, the cofamily may disband once the children reach adulthood.
There are many roles that communitarian movements play, usually arising to address some anguish of the age, often the result of natural catastrophes, at times caused by foreign influences, and sometimes caused by the dominant culture oppressing its counterculture. In response, communitarianism, renamed by the present author “intentioneering,” is the peaceful way to create change. This is an historical tradition that addresses many of the same anti-dominant-culture sentiments that some religious fundamentalists are expressing, yet in the communities movement this is done peacefully.
The communitarian movement can have a voice in many of the issues of these times, because as a gifting and sharing world-view supporting a cooperative cultural paradigm, intentional communities have a distinctly unique perspective. Being more publicly vocal with what the contemporary communities movements have to offer to the dominant culture would include an initiative designed to help steer youth away from violent ideologies to a peaceful, caring, and nurturing lifestyle. One method for bringing people from hateful and murderous ideologies to communitarianism is to place an emphasis upon the gifting and sharing of things, including labor as well as money or income. Non-monetary economics involves using time-based economics in place of monetary economics, and for many people just knowing that they have the option to live such a lifestyle, without violence, can be inspirational!
This announcement of the rising sixth wave of the parallel or counterculture begins a series of articles to be published in a book sometime in 2017, to be titled Intentioneers and Illuminati. This forthcoming book is based upon, and offers theories and analysis derived from, the 2016 book The Intentioneer’s Bible, both by the present author. The next several articles will present the idea of the “cofamily,” followed by articles on the coming 2027 bi-centennial of the anti-Marxist concept of class harmony called “socialism.” These will be followed by additional articles on topics including the “Fellowship Allegory,” “Economics of the Golden Rule,” and “Communitarian Mysticism.” All will be posted with The School of Intentioneering’s graphic representing Parallel Cultures.