Correlations of Intentional Community Theory to Reality

A. Allen Butcher • The School of Intentioneering • • February 24, 2019

This paper (of 8,384 words) was first published as a blog post at:
serving as a preview of the material to appear in a forthcoming book.
For a history by the same author of the gifting and sharing counterculture see:
The Intentioneers’ Bible: Interwoven Stories of the Parallel Cultures of Plenty and Scarcity
for sale at

1. Idealism versus Self-Interest

It is not the private interests of the individual that creates lasting community, but rather the goals of humanity. — I Ching (ancient Chinese divination text)

The correlation to reality: When I surveyed former members of the egalitarian, communal, intentional community East Wind in Missouri about why they joined and why they left, people said that they joined for idealistic reasons like sustainable, ecological lifestyle, feminism, cooperation, equality and such, and left for personal reasons, like going back to school, or to pursue a career not available in the community, or to focus upon a relationship and children. The I Ching got it right, although this is in slight contradiction to item number 10 “Individuality versus Community.”


2. Class-Harmony versus Class-Conflict

The mutual respect among people of different socio-economic statuses in non-communal intentional communities creates the peace of class-harmony, as opposed to a disrespect leading to the violence of Marxist class-conflict.

The correlation in reality: Jesus of Nazareth (the inspiration for Christianity), Robert Owen (English advocate of the early cooperative movement in which the term “socialist” originated in 1827), and Charles Fourier (French utopian writer who advocated a “formula for the division of profits among capital, talent, and labor” see: Edward Spann, 1989, Brotherly Tomorrows, p. 165) all showed that community does not require economic equality among people. “Class-harmony community” accommodates people of different social-economic statuses living and working together. Jesus, or those who created Christianity, along with Owen, and Fourier got it right!


3. Intentional versus Circumstantial Community

Intentional community, in which people deliberately define and live common values, as opposed to circumstantial community where people happen to live in proximity by chance, illustrates the “communal sharing theory,” which states that the greater the experience people have of sharing and/or gifting, the greater will be their commitment to the community thus formed.

The correlation in practice: Sharing and gifting involves material objects as well as thoughts, beliefs, feelings, emotions, leadership, and power, the practice of which builds resilience for survival of the community’s unique identity. It is through practicing gifting and sharing in many different formats that the communities movement is continually growing, differentiating, and evolving. Labor-gifting is used in communities which involve the sharing of privately-owned property, like cohousing and class-harmony communities, and labor-sharing is used in communities which involve the sharing of commonly-owned property, specifically communal societies. Intentional communities having both private and common property, like community land trusts, may practice any form of time-based economy: labor-exchanging, labor-gifting, labor-sharing.


4. Sharing versus Privacy

The “communal privacy theory” states that increasing levels of privacy, afforded by resources or powers entrusted to individuals (called “trusterty”), does not reduce communalism as long as the ownership and responsibility remains under communal ownership and control.

The correlation to practice: “Trusterty” is the process of entrusting commonly-owned assets or powers to individuals for personal use or for service to the community. Egalitarian communal society entrusts assets and powers to individuals and small groups. Trusterty also refers to the trusted asset or power, for example in land trusts the term refers to both natural resources and to the responsibilities of the trustees. (The term “trusterty” is attributed to the Russian anarchist, Prince Peter Kropotkin.)


5. Cofamily versus Consanguineous Family

The “cofamily” affirms and expands the options or possibilities of human culture beyond the common forms of the family of single-parent, nuclear, extended, and blended families, to include small groups of adults in community who are not related by blood or marriage.

The correlation to practice: A “cofamily” (which may also be called an “intentional family”) is a small community of three-to-nine adults with or without children, with the prefix “co” referring to: collective, complex, cooperative, convoluted, communal, complicated, conflicted, or any similar term, except consanguineous. A cofamily may or may not be a group marriage, as in the plural-conjugal structures of polyamory and polyfidelity. A cofamily may stand alone as a small intentional community or be part of a larger community such as cohousing or a communal society as a “nested cofamily” (sometimes also called “small living groups” or SLGs) whether comprised only of adults or formed around the care of children or those with special needs.


6. Family or Cofamily-Based Childcare versus Large-Group Communal Childcare

People often romanticize “communal childcare,” and it is well that they do! Communal childcare is a beautiful thing when it works, and it works best in small groups such as cofamilies and nested cofamilies, primarily due to the need to limit the number of adults who must make and keep agreements about the children. Large-group communalism has an inherent bias against children: as couples forming in the community leave to start a family elsewhere; as adults without children are concerned that the children who are born into the community will likely leave eventually and not become members, after the community pays the expense of raising them; and as large-group communal childcare in which parents cede decision-making power over their children to the group has proven unsustainable over the long term. Yet the problems are mostly among the adults! Meanwhile, Daniel Greenberg presents in his study of children in community the quote from an anonymous community member saying, “For our young children, community is the closest they’re ever going to get in this life to paradise!” (Anonymous, paraphrased from Daniel Greenberg, Communities no. 92, Fall, 1996, p. 12)

Correlations in community: Some parents prefer that or believe that in some cases “communal childcare” can or should replace the family, whether single-parent, nuclear or patriarchal, extended, or blended. Generally, communal childcare in small groups, named by the present author “cofamilies” [see: 5. Cofamily versus Consanguineous Family] can and does work well, while communal childcare in large groups of ten or more adults, where the parents give decision-making power over their children to the group of child care-givers in everything from diet to vaccinations to education to discipline, is problematic for the adults when some have difficulty in making and keeping agreements. While the adults have trouble with conflicts among the child care-givers, the children are usually doing fine, as long as they sleep with their parents rather than away from their parents in a communal children’s house.

There are two main problems with communal childcare in large groups, first, a lack of consistently high-quality childcare as care-givers with different skill levels come and go. Achieving agreement on the many issues presented in the previous paragraph creates such a bureaucratic cost in meeting time that focusing upon the developmental needs of each child is often lost (see: Ingrid Komar, Living the Dream, p. 240). While more meetings scheduled specifically for addressing each child’s development may be called for, increased time in meetings begs the questions of diminishing returns and commitment to the ideal. Especially given the turn-over in child care-givers, the parents usually 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 at least the communal childcare program, and sometimes the community itself.

The second major problem of communal childcare in at least secular, egalitarian groups is the fact that non-parent adults in the community who may or may not have children of their own, or who’s children are now adults, do not want to pay the costs of raising children communally, because the great majority of the children will be taken out of the community by their parents once they reach school-age, and anyway those children remaining will likely choose to leave community when they reach adulthood. This has been the case in the Federation of Egalitarian Communities (FEC). Further, the FEC group East Wind votes on whether to pay the costs of each individual woman’s pregnancy and childcare, requiring that those women who lose their vote must either get an abortion or leave the community, resulting in a small yet steady stream of East Wind pregnancy refugees. In the case of Twin Oaks Community, which rarely refuses pregnancies, their communal childcare program evolved from where parents ceded control of decision-making with regard to the care of their children to the large group, to where now parents find support among members to help them with childcare, essentially creating a small community group within the larger communal society, called by this author a “nested cofamily.” The larger FEC groups like East Wind and Acorn seem to be following this pattern, while the smaller FEC groups of less than ten adults each function as a cofamily. (See: A. Allen Butcher, 2016, Cofamily: Raising Children in Community,

It is because of the problems of children in communal society that the present author asserts the provocative conclusion that “large-group communalism has an inherent bias against children when parents cede decision-making over their children to the group.” Parallels to this can be seen in the dominant, outside-world culture where conservative governments seek to avoid providing social services to families with children. In contrast, cohousing communities which practice the sharing of privately-owned property as opposed to commonly-owned property, and labor-gifting as opposed to labor-sharing, actively advertise for families with children to join the community, while secular communal societies usually do not. In fact, some members of FEC groups have left communal society to join a cohousing community where they then raise their children.

Religious communal societies have somewhat different yet similar stories with regard to children in communal society, and a good explanation of the dynamic was written with regard to Catholic Worker communities. In his 1982 book, Breaking Bread: The Catholic Worker and the Origin of Catholic Radicalism in America, Mel Piehl quotes a Catholic Worker community resident named Stanley Vishnewski who clearly explains the dynamic. “Single persons under the influence of a powerful religious motive can live happily in a communal society where everything is shared in common. … But we soon learned that marriage and our attempts at communal living were incompatible, for no matter how devoted to the work, the moment they married their relationship gradually and imperceptibly and then frankly and strongly veered away from the community to take care of their own. … This fact, that the family seeks its own because it is a natural community, is the fundamental reason why a complete plan of communal living was bound to fail.” (See: Stanley Vishnewski, quoted in Piehl pp. 128-9, found in Brian Berry, 1992, America’s Utopian Experiments: Communal Havens from Long-Wave Crises, p. 204)

Catholic and other monastic societies typically avoid the issues of children in communal society by simply requiring celibacy, while the Hutterites of the northern plains states and Canadian provinces gave up their communal children’s houses in favor of extended-family-based early childcare. Today only a few of the communal groups of the Israeli kibbutz movements founded in the 20th century maintain their communal economies, while a large majority if not all have given up their communal children’s houses in favor of family apartments. This change in the kibbutz social design led to cascading changes down a slippery-slope of privatization to where, as formerly the term “kibbutz” meant “communalism,” the term is now synonymous with “intentional community,” many now being like cohousing communities on government land trusts. In the 21st century many young adults who grew up in rural kibbutzim have been creating urban communities, many of which are communal, so it will be interesting to see how they structure their childcare systems. (See: Amia Lieblich, 2002, “Women and the Changing Israeli Kibbutz: A Preliminary Three-Stage Theory,” Journal of Israeli History, vol 21: 1, 63-84; Richard Isralowitz, 1987, “The Influence of Child Sleeping Arrangements on Selected Aspects of Kibbutz Life,” Kibbutz Studies, Feb. No. 22,; and Michal Palgi, 1997, “Women in the Changing World of the Kibbutz,” Women in Judaism: A Multidisciplinary Journal, vol. 1 no. 1)


7. Solidarity versus Alienation

In community people clearly see that we are all in this together, while in the monetary economy it is understood that everyone is in it for themselves.

The correlation to experience: Time-based economies, whether labor-exchanging (e.g., Time Dollars), labor-gifting (e.g., volunteering, “giving back,” and “paying it forward”), or labor-sharing (i.e., whether anti-quota or vacation-credit labor systems), by valuing all community-labor equally no matter what is done or who is doing it, provide freedom from the alienation of monetary economics.


8. Abstract Principle versus Unique Situation

Confusing the image for the essence is a common mistake. “Any idea of God is just that —an idea. Confusing the idea of God with the true ineffable nature of the Mystery is idolatry.” (Timothy Feke and Peter Gandy, Jesus and the Lost Goddess: The Secret Teachings of the Original Christians, 2001, p. 27)

The correlation in community: The psychology professor Deborah Altus (Washburn University, Topeka, KS) explains that the Harvard psychologist B. F. Skinner, who wrote Walden Two, a utopian fiction applying his theories of behavioral engineering, appreciated Sunflower House (KS) and Los Horcones (Mexico) because those communities affirmed empiricism (the scientific method) in a deliberate, systematic way, in contrast with Twin Oaks (VA) and East Wind (MO) in which the founders initially attempted to emulate Skinner’s utopian fiction Walden Two (1948) as a blueprint, although eventually evolving their own unique systems. In his 1949 book Paths in Utopia (p. 139) Martin Buber concurs with Skinner saying, “Community should not be made into a principle; it 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.” Emmy Arnold, wife of Eberhard Arnold, cofounders of the Society of Brothers or Bruderhof wrote, possibly in reference to the Bruderhof’s on-again-off-again relationship with the much older, larger, and more traditional Hutterites, “A life shared in common is a miracle. People cannot remain together for the sake of traditions. Community must be given again and again as a new birth.” (Emmy Arnold, 1974, Children in Community, 2nd edition, originally published 1963, p. 173)


9. Communal Economics versus Exchange Economies

The well known Morelly’s Maxim written in the 18th century of “from each according to ability; to each according to need” is now updated in the 21st century to apply to groups as opposed to individuals by the present author in Allen’s Aphorism as “from all according to intent; to all according to fairness.” Ability is to intent; as need is to fairness.

The correlation in community: As Daniel Gavron wrote about the Kibbutz movement in Israel, the red line between communalism and the exchange economy is whether all labor is valued equally or whether differential compensation is used to reward different types of labor. “… [W]hereas previous changes in the kibbutz way of life, such as increasing personal budgets [see: 4. Sharing versus Privacy] and having the children sleep in their parent’s homes [see: 6. Family versus Communal Childcare], did not alter the fundamental character of the institution, the introduction of differential salaries indicated a sea change.” (Gavron, 2000, Kibbutz: Awakening from Utopia, p. 9)

When Marx and Engels sought to define a future ideal culture to supersede market capitalism they had the same trouble as everyone else in projecting the details of what it would look like and how it would function. In the blog post “Understanding Non-Monetary, Time-Based, Communal Economics” the present author wrote that with the innovation of the vacation-credit labor system the egalitarian, secular, communal intentional community Twin Oaks has solved the problem of Karl Marx’ and Freidrich Engels’ second phase of communism.

Marx and Engels had no better idea than did the Harvard psychologist B.F. Skinner who wrote Walden Two, a utopian fiction applying his theories of behavior engineering [see: 8. Abstract Principle versus Unique Situation], or anyone else as to what a secular communal society would look like. The best that Marx and Engels could come up with was to use Morelly’s Maxim (see: Karl Marx, 1875/1891 “Critique of the Gotha Program” in Robert Tucker, 1978, The Marx-Engels Reader pp. 525, 531, 685). Later Friedrich Engels did get it right in saying that the second stage of communism would involve the “administration of things and a direction of the processes of production” (see: Friedrich Engels, 1880, Socialism: Utopian and Scientific in Tucker, p. 689), since the production and distribution of wealth is different in communism than capitalism (see the following two paragraphs on production and distribution in communalism below). Marx and Engels set the goal of achieving a non-capitalist economy as an uncertain step to be taken sometime in the distant future, focusing in the interim upon what they explained as the intermediate step in Marxist communism of class-conflict for control of the State. And yes, the second stage of Marxist communism is a utopian theory and ideal despite their inclusion of it in their concept of “scientific socialism.”

It was Kathleen “Kat” Kinkade, cofounder of Twin Oaks, East Wind, and Acorn communities (USA), who in 1967 originated the innovation in time-based economies called by the present author the “vacation-credit, labor-sharing system.” This is not a labor-exchange, instead it is labor-sharing involving the community deciding what types of work is important to the community, valuing equally domestic, income, and all other labor which the community chooses to recognize as “on the system.” A labor-quota or minimum number of hours per week that all members must contribute to maintain their membership is then set by the community, while the member chooses among available work roles, often working a few hours in several different jobs per day, while enjoying a “radical flex-time” work-day, with breaks as the member or crew desires. Any member can request to be trained for any job. The single most important aspect of the vacation-credit labor system is the provision that over-quota work by the individual earns personal vacation time (see: Kinkade, 1972, A Walden Two Experiment, p. 45). It is primarily the time-based, vacation-credit concept, along with valuing all labor equally, that has enabled Twin Oaks’ communal survival and growth for over half-a-century, and which provides the bonding agent in Mala Twin Oaks’ assertion that the community’s labor system is “the glue that keeps this community together.” (See: Emily Rems, 2003 winter, “Ecovillage People,” BUST magazine)

Membership entitles the person to all the goods and services of the community, with distribution organized in appropriate ways, such as: equally to all, according to need (e.g., health care), by chance (i.e., dice, straws, etc.), first-come-first-served, or by preferences matrix (see: Komar, 1983, Living the Dream, pp. 113-4). Merit is used for assigning committee and managerial positions, while seniority is rarely acknowledged in egalitarian communities.

For ten years the egalitarian communities experimented with variable-credit labor systems, compensating different types of work with different credits-per-hour depending upon people’s preferences, until the members decided they preferred to value all work benefitting the community equally, thus respecting Daniel Gavron’s red line between communalism and the exchange economy. This design of a communal economy has now been in use over fifty years, with all of the known communities using variations of the system associating in the Federation of Egalitarian Communities.


10. Individuality versus Community

There must be brotherly [and sisterly] love, a wholeness of humanity. But there must also be pure, separate individuality, separate and proud. —D. H. Lawrence

The correlation in community: Many writers about community have focused upon the opposing dynamics of the individual versus the community, some suggesting the need for individuals to give up attachments to their own interests in order to support what brings and keeps the community together. Rosabeth Moss Kanter’s 1972 book Commitment and Community considers a large range of these issues. An example would be in communal groups where each member is given a private room, which is a basic need for individual privacy that communal groups generally recognize. Yet a dynamic seen in such groups is that some new members spend the first months of their membership focused upon fixing up their rooms, like building a sleeping loft or raised bed with storage below, installing a parquet floor, painting the room, building shelves and so on, then soon after it is done, they drop membership and leave. They never make the transition from focusing upon themselves to focusing upon the group. In the opposite case of over-bearing group-think and manipulative group processes, the individual loses the ability to think critically and independently (see: Tim Miller, 2016, “‘Cults’ and Intentional Communities,” Communities Directory 7th Ed., FIC; and Marlene Winell, 1993, Leaving the Fold: A Guide for Former Fundamentalists and Others Leaving their Religion). Survival of an intentional community requires that at certain points the individual and the group must be interlocking, yet both must be sufficiently autonomous to resist submergence of one by the other. [This is somewhat contrary to item number 1 “Idealism versus Self-Interest.”]


11. Social Pressure Justified by Idealism versus Dissenting Non-Compliance

When the irresistible force of personal needs hits the immovable object of the attachment to communal ideals, a cognitive dissonance results of people doing one thing while saying something contradictory about exactly what it is they are doing.

The correlation in community: For about a decade East Wind Community, about a quarter-century Twin Oaks Community, about sixty years the Kibbutz movements, and for probably a few centuries the Hutterite colonies, all struggled to make something work that tends to not work well in large communal societies; designing and maintaining communal childcare systems in which the community rather than the parents make all the decisions for the children. [See: 6. Family or Cofamily-Based Childcare versus Large-Group Communal Childcare] In many cases the community sentiment is essentially that of course a communal society must have a communal childcare system, while typically the children who grow up in communal childcare systems refuse to raise their own children the same way, resulting in their leaving the communal society to have children and sometimes causing the communal community itself to privatize or disband.

Kat Kinkade explains one of the founding ideals of Twin Oaks in her 1994 book Is It Utopia Yet? when she wrote, “We thought children belong to society and we could raise them better than the parents could. Look at all our neurotic parents! So we thought we were going to raise our children by experts. Unfortunately, there’s a shortage of experts.” (Kinkade, 1994, p. 34) Ingrid Komar explains further in her 1983 book Living the Dream about Twin Oaks that, “Originally the most radical group conceived of parenthood as ‘giving a child to the community.’ [The concept was called “the community child.”] The community, these people reasoned, had a better chance of creating the utopian ‘Walden Two’ personality out of the second generation of communitarians. … How far community pressures went in ‘attenuating the parent-child relationship’ in the early days is difficult to ascertain in retrospect.” (Komar, 1989, 2nd edition, original publication 1983, pp. 215-6) Komar then quotes Kinkade saying, “There was never at any time a practice in the child rearing at Twin Oaks which even faintly resembled the theoretical separation of natural parent from child. Never. What there was, however, was a leftover sense of guilt from among those who betrayed the idea, and they made a big point of talking about the early radical days as if there had been such a thing. The only thing there ever had been was resentful statements to the parents for having betrayed the group-agreed upon ideal.” (Kat Kinkade in Komar, p. 216)

Conflicts reoccurred over the years 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, with those most committed to communal childcare giving up and leaving. Despite the commitment to participatory governance, the story of communal childcare in the larger Federation communities shows how group-think can maintain commitment for a limited amount of time to a hopelessly failed ideology while policy dilemmas seem to never go away. Social pressure reinforced the status quo, while non-compliance with childcare agreements resulted in an example of social anarchy within a bureaucratic system.


12. The Parallel Cultures of Exchange Economies versus Communal Economics

While America is generally described as a “capitalist country” the dominant culture is actually fairly well balanced between the aspects of competition and of cooperation. The theory of “parallel cultures” as developed by the present author says that the two economic systems are intertwined or interwoven, such that the debt-based monetary system and the non-monetary time-based system are mutually dependent.

Although the monetary system gets all the glory (via economic metrics such as GNP/GDP), the fact is that industrial, agricultural, governmental and all other forms of production are dependent upon the uncounted labor which provides domestic and community services, usually performed by women. If the non-monetarily-compensated work in domestic reproduction, often called “women’s work,” were to be monetized, it would add significantly to the country’s GNP/GDP. As it is, the corporate/private and government/public world is dependent upon the non-monetized domestic labor of women and men for the raising of each generation of wage-earning and salaried employees.

In her 1991 book Paradigms in Progress: Life Beyond Economics Hazel Henderson calls domestic gifting and sharing labor the “informal economy of unpaid productivity” (Henderson, pp. 120-2). Marilyn Warring explains further in her 1988 book If Women Counted: A New Feminist Economics, that “the international economic system constructs reality in a way that excludes the great bulk of women’s work—reproduction (in all its forms), raising children, domestic work, and subsistence production. Cooking, according to economists, is ‘active labor’ when cooked food is sold and ‘economically inactive labor’ when it is not” (Waring, pp. 30-1).

Defining economics as the total production of goods and services, in the nation-state monetary economics is less than half of the economic story. The gifting and sharing part of our economic system includes three main components, two that use money and one that is time-based. The gifting and sharing parts of the U.S. economic system are comprised of: • Government spending [the first monetary-sharing part] including federal, state, and local equaled about 34 percent of U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2015 (see: • The economic contribution to GDP in 2014 of tax-exempt organizations [the second monetary-sharing part] comprised 5.3 percent (see: • A United Nations survey titled The World’s Women: Trends and Statistics, 1970-1990 reported that if time-based domestic economic production [the gifting and sharing part] was monetized, the U.S. GDP would be 30 percent higher (Henderson, 1991, pp. 11, 167). Since it is not monetized this “domestic reproduction” contribution to GDP is uncounted, invisible, and disrespected, while being essential to the monetary system.

The correlations in community: Justification for the “parallel cultures” concept is found in three surprising aspects of the counterculture, where people who are committed to alternative lifestyles actually end up engaging in at least three activities which constitute the basic building blocks of monetary economics. It is astonishing to think that by returning to pre-monetary gifting and sharing lifestyles people naturally end up recreating and reliving the basic dynamics which apparently led to the foundations of monetary economics in human civilization!

• First is the issue of children in communal society, where as explained in an earlier section of this paper [6. Family or Cofamily-Based Childcare versus Large-Group Communal Childcare] people typically leave the secular communal society they previously joined, and in the case of East Wind Community they are sometimes forced out (as was the case with the present author and others), to rejoin the dominant, monetary system in order to have children in a family setting, whether single-parent, nuclear, extended, or blended. In other cases people simply avoid joining communal society in the first place when they choose to focus upon personal needs and wants over idealistic values [see: 1. Idealism versus Self-Interest]. Further, even if children do grow up in communal society they will typically leave once they become adults in order to take their chances in the dominant, monetary economy and society. The dynamic here seems to be that adults usually want something different than what they had growing up. Just as those who grow up in the country often want to move to the city, and those born in the city want to get back-to-the-land, so also do those who grow up in communalism want to explore the monetary system, while those who grow up in the dominant culture want to become part of its counterculture. It may be that youth always wants to take the dragon by the tail, as it were, and see how well they can make it serve their own interests and ideals, or it may simply be the case that the grass always looks greener in the parallel culture on the other side of the looking glass.

• Second is the case of the wilderness training experiences in basic market economics provided at the countercultural gatherings of the Rainbow Family of Living Light. A standard feature of Rainbow Gatherings, large and small, is the Trade Circle or Barter Lane. At Rainbow Gatherings private property is used in two ways: in gifting and in trading. All Annual and most Regional Rainbow Gatherings happen on government land, like national forests and other wilderness areas. Primarily the Gatherings focus upon gifting of labor and food from the individual to the group, yet to the dismay of many Rainbows, a large number of attendees insist upon spreading a blanket on the ground and displaying all manner of articles for trade, from camping supplies and clothing to semi-precious stones, crystals, and art and craft work. On warm sunny days hundreds of people will be actively trading, and thousands will wander down Barter Lane enjoying this colorful, bustling milieu of Rainbow culture. Typically, certain commodities like chocolate and tobacco will take on the functions of indirect-barter, becoming primitive forms of currency. When the value of chocolate in particular inflates too high in the barter market someone will typically purchase a huge bag of the commodity and hand it out at Barter Lane to saturate the market by increasing the supply. Inadvertently, the pleasure-of-haggling results in the teaching of children especially the basic market functions of supply-and-demand, monopoly, market saturation, buy-low/sell-high, and other aspects of exchange economies, within an ostensibly gifting and sharing culture. While similar festivals like Burning Man actively shut down any kind of trade or barter activity, Rainbow culture is too anarchistic to stop such antithetical behavior. Barter at Rainbow is essentially a form of non-compliance with the gifting ideal and intent of the festival, similar to the experience of parents going against the assumptions of large-group communal childcare [see: 6. Family or Cofamily-Based Childcare versus Large-Group Communal Childcare], illustrating again the intertwined nature of exchange versus gifting and sharing parallel cultures, where both opposing cultures actually create their own antithesis.

• Third is the experience of communal groups attempting to trade commodities produced in their own businesses with each other. There are two aspects to this dynamic, first being the experience of two groups in the Federation of Egalitarian Communities, both in Missouri. East Wind Community makes nut butters like peanut and almond butter, while Sandhill produces sweeteners like sorghum and honey. The two wanted to trade for the other’s commodities, yet had to work out how best to value their products. Should they trade according to weight or volume, or maybe by how much time was required by the two communities to each make a comparable unit of their products? Then too is the problem that trade in commodities is taxable, just like monetary sales, so the communities would have to keep a special barter ledger to account for their trades. A second ledger for barter transactions then complicates the communities’ computation of the dollar-per-hour of their various businesses which they use to monitor their own productivity over time. Given all these complexities East Wind and Sandhill decided to simply sell their products to each other as they would a commercial account, just to avoid making more work for themselves. Here is seen, in this experience of two of the most radical, non-monetary, time-based, communal societies opting for exchanges between them utilizing monetary economics, another illustration of how and why monetary systems developed at the beginning of civilization.

The second aspect of commodities exchanges between communal societies resulting in experiences of the return to monetary economics, illustrates how communal idealism continually results in the proverbial reinvention of the exchange system “wheel.” Arthur and Jane Morgan, cofounders of The Vale community in Yellow Springs, Ohio in 1946, had earlier founded Community Service, Inc. (CSI) in 1940. Alfred Andersen, after his release from detention as a conscientious objector during World War Two, joined them and helped form in 1946-47 an association for barter exchanges of agricultural products and crafts between communitarian settlements called, “Inter-Community Exchange.” Andersen explains, “Our hope was that we could develop an entire alternative economy of trading among cooperative communities. … It was only after a year or two that we realized the main thing we had to exchange was fellowship.” (Andersen, “Fellowship Roots: Where We’ve Been; Where We Might Go,” Communities no. 97, winter 1997, pp.12-13) After the founding of the Federation of Egalitarian Communities at East Wind in 1976 a member of East Wind started a short-lived marketing initiative called “Community Products,” and later in the 1990s a former member of Twin Oaks then living at an associated community created an Internet-based community-market initiative, only to give that up after a few years. With the rise of a number of small communities around Twin Oaks about the time of its 50th anniversary the topic of exchanging and marketing of products made by the various communities has arisen again. None of the people involved in these initiatives have known about the earlier failures, while the same idea has probably surfaced as well at other times in other places, and so this particular market-exchange-system wheel keeps being reinvented, or at least discussed time after time, with the result always being the return to reliance upon the market-economy system of the dominant culture.

These examples of how people who have been committed to the communal ideal and have left the monetary economy to live in various types of intentional community, only to end up recreating aspects of monetary systems, even creating community-owned businesses, illustrates how debt-based monetary economics and time-based non-monetary economics function as parallel cultures. The intertwined nature of these two, supposedly diametrically opposed cultures, is perhaps best portrayed graphically in the oriental Taijitu or “yin-yang” symbol, in which two opposite concepts are represented as each having an aspect of the other embedded within them. While such an illustration is not included in this paper it will appear in the book version.


13. Utopian Countercultural Lifestyles versus Imposed Reality of the Dominant Culture

Cultural innovations often arise from utopian theory or from within intentional communities, or they are picked up by communities from the outside-world and adapted or evolved, then are disseminated back into the outside-world where they may result in changes in the dominant culture. Three examples of this dynamic are: feminism, legal structures for communalism, and freedom from taxation.

The correlations in community—Feminism: Charles Fourier (1772-1837) of France was an eccentric utopian philosopher and writer who focused upon cooperation rather than communalism, and like Robert Owen who inspired the cooperative movement in England, Fourier is credited with being an early inspiration to the French worker and consumer cooperative movements (Beecher and Bienvenu, pp. 66-7). Both Fourier and Owen inspired later class-harmony communities [see: 2. Class-Harmony versus Class-Conflict]. Using a pen-name, Fourier published in 1808 his Theory of the Four Trends and the General Destinies in which he stated that, “the extension of the privileges of women is the fundamental cause of all social progress.” Beginning in the 1840s, as Jonathan Beecher and Richard Bienvenu write in their 1971 book, The Utopian Vision of Charles Fourier, this statement became “one of the battle cries of radical feminism,” contributing to the revolutionary movements of 1848 throughout Europe (B. & B., p. 196). Fourier is also “credited with coining or giving currency to the term … feminism” (Nicholas Riasanovsky, 1969, The Teaching of Charles Fourier, p. 208), which later became, along with the cooperative movement, two primary aspects of socialism, with the first use of the term “socialist” appearing in the Owenite London Cooperative Magazine in 1827. Feminism became a mass movement of its own through the suffragette and material-feminist organizing (see: Dolores Hayden, 1981, The Grand Domestic Revolution) of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with feminism’s second wave occurring during the radical protests and organizing of the 1960s and ‘70s. According to Rosabeth Moss Kanter in her 1972 book Commitment and Community, it was from a 1960s New York women’s liberation group that Twin Oaks Community adopted the word “co” to use as a neutral, non-gender-specific pronoun, in place of “he” and “she,” and “cos” in place of the possessive “his” and “hers” (Kanter, p. 23; see also Kinkade, The Collected Leaves of Twin Oaks, vol. 1, p. 115 and vol. 2, p. 23). In a letter from Kat Kinkade to Jon Wagner, professor of sociology at Knox College, Galesburg, IL, around 1980, Kinkade wrote about Twin Oaks and East Wind Communities that, “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.” To which Jon Wagner replied in his 1982 book Sex Roles in Contemporary American Communes, “These communities may be among the most nonsexist social systems in human history.” (Wagner, pp. 37-8)

The correlations in community—Legal Structures: The Federation of Egalitarian Communities (FEC) was founded at East Wind Community the fall of 1976, and in 2017 Twin Oaks Community, another founding member of the FEC, then with about 100 adult members, celebrated its 50th year, breaking all records of longevity for secular communal societies in the United States. An important aspect of that success is the prior existence of a form of legal incorporation designed specifically for communal societies, set by the U.S. Congress in the Revenue Act of 1936, called 501(d) for “religious and apostolic associations.” The 501(d) section of the tax code was originally created for the Adventist community called the House of David in Benton Harbor, Michigan, which built an amusement park as its community business, beginning a tradition of exhibition ball games combining athleticism with comedy in their baseball and basketball teams, later copied by the Harlem Globetrotters (Tim Miller, 1998, The Quest for Utopia, p. 81). Along with various communal religious groups, many of the member communities of the FEC incorporate as 501(d) tax-exempt associations, except that Twin Oaks filed its taxes as a 501(d) organization for many years without obtaining formal recognition for the status from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS). About 1977 the IRS sent a letter to Twin Oaks saying that it was not exempt from taxes and would you please pay a quarter-million dollars in back taxes? For most communities such a letter would be a death warrant, except in the case of Twin Oaks which decided to take the IRS to court. The primary problem that the IRS identified was the “vow-of-poverty.” Catholic monasteries and similar religious societies incorporate under the 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, which requires a vow-of-poverty, meaning that when people join they must donate all their assets and income to the monastery and receive none back, nor have any claim to the communal assets, when they leave the community. The IRS argued that when the 501(d) tax status was created in 1936 the U.S. Congress meant to include a “vow-of-poverty” clause. Not agreeing with this obviously contrived argument, Twin Oaks appealed the problematic IRS ruling to the tax court, and won the case in 1981!

Since then many other communal groups, Christian, Hindu, and more, have incorporated as 501(d), while many others have been refused by the IRS. The problem now is that the Internal Revenue Code of 1954 states that a 501(d) organization must realize a substantial amount of its income from its own businesses and not from members holding jobs outside of the community and contributing their wages and salaries to the group’s common treasury. The IRS has never set a limit for the ratio of outside-job income to community-owned business income which will result in the denial of a community’s application for 501(d) status, which enables the IRS to use that rule to deny the tax-exempt 501(d) status to applicant communities which are not yet sufficiently established to have their own businesses.

The solution to the problem of the limit for outside-jobs income versus community-owned business income was suggested by Herb Goldstein of the School of Living Community Land Trust. Goldstein sites the experience of the 1970s and ‘80s Christian evangelical Shiloh Youth Revival Centers which received a letter similar to the one that Twin Oaks received. Shiloh had been filing taxes under the 501(c)(3) status, which cannot receive income from jobs its members hold, which were unrelated to Shiloh’s exempt purpose, forcing the dissolution of the entire Shiloh community network. In a letter to the present author, April 10 of 1989, Goldstein explained that if Shiloh had formed a separate for-profit corporation to operate its businesses, allowable deductions would have created minimal tax liabilities. The suggestion is then that communal groups, especially new ones that do not yet have sufficiently established businesses to support the community and therefore need outside-work income, might set up two separate communal treasuries, one for community-owned 501(d) business income and the other for outside-job income. The second common treasury can be simply under a partnership agreement involving just those members who have outside-work income, or under a limited liability company, or other form of for-profit corporation. To the knowledge of the present writer, who is neither a lawyer nor a legal professional of any kind, no community has experimented with two communal treasures as explained here, and nothing in this document may be construed as legal advice for any group desiring to embark upon such an experiment, as this writing is only for informational purposes explaining various historical experiences and speculations as to possibilities.

In 1987 East Wind Community sent a letter to a law firm asking about its idea of letting members make money in the community’s businesses for members who wish to leave and relocate, called the “Earned Leaving Fund.” In the reply letter the lawyer suggested setting up a separate bank account in the name of the persons accumulating funds for leaving, refraining from accessing them until their membership is ended, just like with assets previously owned by members before they joined which are not given to the communal society (since the vow-of-poverty is not required of 501(d) organizations). The lawyer wrote further, “On the advisability of seeking a private ruling from the Internal Revenue Service on this question, I believe that it would be time consuming with no reasonable assurance of success. I believe it likely that the Internal Revenue Service would refuse to rule on the question and the exercise would serve only to put a spot light on [the Community]. I believe that the Internal Revenue Service still maintains an internal bias against 501(d) organizations which do not have a vow of poverty. In saying this, however, I must point out that I have not made any inquiries or seen any IRS publications which support my feelings that a bias exists.” (Collins Denny, III, Mays & Valentine, Richmond, Virginia, September 4, 1987)

The correlations in community—Freedom from Taxation: LIVE • FREE! Labor Is Valued Equally • For Realizing Economic Equality! When all labor is valued equally, money is no longer used as inducement or reward for labor. When labor accounting is involved in time-based economies, an hour of work is equal to one “labor credit,” regardless of what is done or who is doing it.

There are three forms of time-based economies: labor-exchanging, labor-gifting, and labor-sharing, and all three are tax-exempt. When labor is not valued in dollars and instead is only counted in units of time, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has ruled that time-based economies are tax-exempt.

The IRS gives three reasons for labor-exchange systems like Time Dollars to be tax-exempt: 1. An hour is always an hour, regardless of what type of labor or productive work is involved; 2. Labor-exchange hours are backed only by a moral obligation and are not legally binding; and 3. The purpose of labor-exchanges is charitable.

Labor-gifting is tax-exempt as it is also a charitable, moral obligation, often explained by the common phrases: “fair-share,” “giving back,” and “paying it forward.”

Labor-sharing is tax-exempt for generally the same reasons as labor-exchanging and labor-gifting above, even when used for income-producing labor making money in community-owned businesses, when the community is incorporated as an IRS 501(d) organization [see the previous discussion “The Correlations in Community—Legal Structures”]. There is, however, a limit to how much tax-free income a 501(d) community can make through its time-based labor system. The formula is: net income from community-owned businesses for a given year (with only a small percentage from outside jobs, although the IRS does not specify that percentage) ÷ total number of community members (adults + children) = less than the poverty level annual income where the tax rate is zero.

Motivations for Communitarian Gifting and Sharing

The intentioneering of cultural innovations in utopian theory and communitarian cultures is often motivated by the desire among people to live in ways more consistent with their greatest values and highest ideals of personal responsibility for self, society, and nature than what the dominant culture offers or supports. As explained in section 12 “The Parallel Cultures of Exchange Economies versus Communal Economics,” the gifting and sharing cultures give rise to monetary economics, which became the “dominant culture” expressing the negative values of possessiveness and competition, while monetary economics similarly gives rise to countercultural systems of gifting and sharing representing the positive aspects of cooperative culture first learned in eons of tribal culture. Ever since the advent of money people have devised forms of time-based economies to escape the evils of monetary economics, including endless warfare, mass slavery, wealth amidst poverty, and environmental decline.

When money is not used within a community, encouragement and reward for participation requires creative methods for expressing group affirmation and appreciation for the time and skills contributed by each person. Since there is no monetary reward for motivating work in the time-based economy, forms of positive reinforcement for contributing time in labor or work may include: • Personal satisfaction for doing work valued and appreciated by others, or which serves the common good; • Recognition by friends for one’s good work, especially when offered personally, and • Knowing that other members are also doing the best quality work they can for the community. This latter form of positive reinforcement results in a sense of group awareness and commitment, or ésprit dé corps to use a military term, which helps to avoid or decrease burnout, or the loss of the intention originally inspiring the individual due to the daily effort required to maintain commitment and participation.

There is a large amount of sociological and psychological material about what motivates people, suggesting that “carrot and stick” approaches which inspire hope-of-gain versus fear-of-loss is not the most important concern. Daniel Pink explains in his 2009 book Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us that once our basic survival needs are met, our greatest motivation for what we do is the resulting personal growth and development that we realize, toward expressing our individual human potential. The author analyzes the components of personal motivation as being first autonomy, or the desire to direct our own lives, then mastery, or the desire to continually improve what we do (and the more it matters to others the better), and also the desire to be of service to an ideal or something that is larger than just one’s own life. Alfie Kohn writes in his 1999 book, Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise, and Other Bribes that “artificial inducements” only work for a period of time, after which the lack of a meaningful context for what we do can cause people to lose interest in the bribes offered. Rewards can actually work against creativity as they discourage risk-taking when the safest way to earn a reward is to follow the methods designed and imposed by others. Kohn identifies the conditions for authentic motivation as collaboration with others, the meaningfulness of the work, and choice or self-direction, all of which can be provided in the social-economic-political design of intentional community.

Natural Law as the Unified-Field Theory of Human Society

The thirteen correlations of theory and practice above present fundamental dichotomies in human culture. Many of these and probably others can also be written as ironies of human culture, yet however presented they may also be considered to be behavioristic principles of “natural law,” and together affirmed as aspects of the unified-field theory of communitarianism, or of the practice of intentioneering, as expressed in the application of our highest values and ideals in our chosen lifestyle.

Natural law integrates in one coherent world view a set of moral principles for the design of spiritual, political, economic, and other social issues. These aspects of our existence at the juncture of the physical and the spiritual aspects of the universe justifies both common and private property by affirming respect for social, environmental, and personal responsibility in our applications of the laws-of-nature.

These correlations of intentional community, or of intentioneering theory and experience, represent at least some of the psychological laws of behaviorism. These balance the group’s right to self-determination in creating its social contract, including a behavior code and a system of property ownership and/or control, against the individual’s subjective needs and wants. The individual’s participation in the mutual processes of decentralized, self-governance, toward common expressions of “the good life,” results in our cultural evolution through successive approximations of paradise on Earth.


• Behaviorism (behavioral psychology) — A philosophical theory that all behavior ultimately results from external environmental influences upon, or conditioning of, the individual’s internal cognition, emotions, and attitudes.

• Natural Law (political or religious philosophy) — A body of unchanging moral principles influencing human conduct, whether recognized through reason or revelation.

• Intentioneering (compare with communitarianism) — The effort to design and live a preferred lifestyle or culture; coined from the terms “intentional community” and “behavioral engineering.”

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