A. Allen Butcher • School of Intentioneering • Denver, Colorado • January, 2023
AllenInUtopia@consultant.com • http://www.Intentioneers.net • 12,025 words
There have been many waves of utopian enthusiasm in Western civilization, and the 2020s are becoming another. People are diffusing throughout society cultural innovations which have proven to be effective and popular, especially: ecovillages, land trusts, cohousing, real estate investment cooperative, communal society, cofamilies, and other methods of preserving the beauty and value of things that could soon be lost, if we do not actively support what we believe
• Teaching Parallel Cultures in the School of Intentioneering
• The Wandervogel by John de Graaf
Reprinted with permission: John de Graaf
• Non-Christian and Christian Youth Movements
• If People Wanted to Live Communally, There Would Be More of It
• The Solution to Economic Collapse for Wall Street Banks
• Riding-Out the Storm in the Ecovillage
• Teaching Counterculture in the School of Intentioneering
• The Parallel Cultures of the Cofamily Collective Dream and the American Dream Nuclear Family
• Intentioneering the Fourth World Commonwealth
Teaching Parallel Cultures in the School of Intentioneering
Learning about and teaching the nature of the dominant culture and of the alternatives to it is the mission of the School of Intentioneering. Politics, economics, religion, and other aspects of culture are all in constant states of change, often returning to similar themes developed and experienced in the past. Knowing what has come before and how that history echoes in the present provides opportunities for avoiding the reinvention of wheels, while showing best practices for how to drive our society in a preferred direction.
Understanding political, economic, and cultural history leads to the theory of parallel cultures, recognizing that there has always been and likely always will be times of tension and conflict, as well as times of accommodation, tolerance, and co-existence of two different world-views and cultures. The two parallel cultures are identified in different ways at different times, usually corresponding to the political concepts of right and left, the economic concepts of private and common property, the social concepts of conservative and liberal, and the religious lifestyles of patriarchy and partnership.
In the absence of beneficial and constructive visions people respond to challenges and crises with anxiety, cognitive dissonance, and denial, often turning to dystopian beliefs and manipulations fed by conspiracy theories, exclusivity, and violent extremism. Positive alternatives are needed to counter the negativity, by focusing upon cultural designs that assure nurturing, inclusive, socially and environmentally responsible lifestyles accessible to all through the future.
In a democracy citizens can be as liberated as free birds! While people value the freedom of individual autonomy and of self-direction, many also enjoy being part of agglomerations, such as being one of thousands of spectators at a ball game, a member of a graduating class, or of a faith community. Such groups can be considered human murmurations, in ever changing social configurations.
Gregarious people enjoy being one-of-many, tending to their personal role in a group, large or small, with a common idea or mission. That must be similar to what an individual starling thinks and feels when it joins a flock in murmuration, managing its own flight in coordination with others!
Some people enjoy the American Dream murmuration, and others the Collective Dream murmuration. These are as two flocks with different news feeds and subsequent world-views: conservative and liberal, right and left. “Collective” can mean cooperative, communal, or any sharing lifestyle.
America has always been a divided nation. Surprisingly, the 19th century American Civil War between North and South is thought to be a continuation of the 17th century English Civil War, which was transferred to, then evolved in, North America. The English Civil War was between monarchists supporting classist society and culture, some of whom later immigrated to the southern British Colonies on the North American east coast, and parliamentarians supporting limited representative democracy, some of whom later immigrated to the northern American Colonies. In the following American Revolutionary War, about one-third of the Colonists supported the British Crown, one-third supported American independence, and one-third avoided the issue. Later, the American Civil War carried on the division between Southern classist culture and Northern democratic culture.
Going back further, the histories of the Roman Republic becoming the Roman Empire, and the Ancient Greek conflict between autocratic kings and elected democratic leaders, shows that the ongoing American Culture War is our contemporary manifestation of the dual nature of human-kind, that of competition and domination versus cooperation and freedom. This has always been an issue in our civilization. Marija Gimbutas shows that even in our prehistory there was conflict between egalitarian partnership-oriented and authoritarian patriarchal-oriented cultures. (Gimbutas, xv, xvi, 176)
In the 20th century the division between autocracy and liberal democracy resulted in two World Wars, with WWII being a continuation of aspects of the First World War. WWII saw a division between the fascist political-economic right and the liberal political-economic left. The subsequent Cold War between the victors of WWII replaced fascism with communism as the opponent of liberal democracy.
In 21st century America we have the Republican right versus the Democratic left, both with corresponding conservative-versus-liberal social movements, including a Religious Right and a Religious Left. The contemporary conflicts between these extremes may be seen as the ongoing tension between two opposing world-views, reappearing throughout history, manifesting again in our time for us to carry on the never-to-be-resolved struggle.
Today, the conservative right wing has allied with neo-fascist extremism, with its high-water mark so far being the 2021 storming of the U.S. Capitol building. Neo-fascists are actively recruiting youth into their movement with online appeals of ideology, leading to meetings and actions. Mean while, the liberal left is less visible. Anti-fascists use a diversity of tactics from non-violent direct action to violence, with those engaged in the latter called “Antifa.” In some ways, the 2020s are developing to be much like the 1920s, with the naiveté of youth in both cases being susceptible to manipulation by conspiracy theorists and angry militant groups seeking new recruits. John de Graaf ‘s 1977 article The Wandervogel shows parallels between 1920s Germany and 1960s American youth movements, which can now also be seen in the 2020s in at least America and probably Europe and elsewhere.
John de Graaf’s entire 1977 article The Wandervogel, the literal translation being “Wandering Birds,” is included in this paper for its instructional value in how apolitical youth movements can be co-opted by neo-fascist extremists. That is not exactly what is happening in America and Europe in the 2020s, yet being aware of the history should aid understanding of the present, and planning for the future.
Non-Christian and Christian Youth Movements
The German Wandervogel youth movement started in 1896, and is described by Peter Stachura in his book Nazi Youth in the Weimer Republic as a “mainly Protestant, urban middle-class phenomenon … of escapist romanticism.” John de Graaf explains that these were the disaffected children of prosperity, reacting against the rapid “harsh, complex, and materialistic” industrialization of their German homeland, which supported both their comfortable German working class and their prosperous middle class. The literal translation of Wandervogel is “the wandering birds,” translated to American English as “Free Birds!” (de Graaf, pp. 14, 15; Stachura, quoted in de Graaf, pp. 20-21)
The Wandervogel movement then went dormant when World War I began in 1914, reforming during the 1920s between the world wars, going dormant again with the beginning of World War II. The movement involved: free schools teaching gender-equality as in Denmark and Spain; food, housing, and other cooperatives; long hair on men; back-to-nature rural communes; sexual freedom; a rejection of conventional Christianity in favor of mysticism and Eastern Religions; internationalism replacing nationalistic patriotism; and a resistance to politics with the sentiment that “Our lack of purpose is our strength,” as Walter Lagueur wrote in Young Germany. De Graaf writes, “Because they had so long been unconcerned with practical political questions, they were impotent when disaster struck.” That disaster was Adolf Hitler’s fascist dictatorship “National Socialism.” (de Graaf, pp. 14-18)
The 1960s countercultural movement spread around the world, and the 2020s are showing significant countercultural youth activism for racial justice, women’s rights, and for collectivization through mutual aid groups, cooperatives, community, cofamilies, and worker solidarity. (de Graaf, pp. 14)
There is one organization that has survived from the 1920s German youth movement. German Christian youth were inspired to activism by the times, even though the primary sentiment was non-Christian. This is the Bruderhof, a Christian communal group also called the Society of Brothers, which today has about 3,000 members in about 25 communities, mostly in the United States.
Emmy Arnold, wife of the Bruderhof founder, Eberhard Arnold, wrote in the 1974 second edition of the book Children in Community, …
In Germany after the First World War, the Youth Movement arose and was very much alive in our Christian circles. My husband, Eberhard Arnold, and I were closely connected with this movement for many years. We were part of a group of people who often met in our home in Berlin in a search for a new, genuine way of life. A few of these people felt together the very
strong urge to build up a life in truthfulness, simplicity, and poverty, as opposed to the life we saw everywhere around us.
In the year 1920 this community life came into being; a very simple life in complete sharing was begun by a little group in Sannerz, Hesse. This life in community has continued for over fifty years. We have gone through sorrow and struggle, yet we have known deep joy and enthusiasm.
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. (Society of Brothers, p. 173)
The Bruderhof “genuine way of life” was of course incompatible with Nazism, and so like all the other “new religions and occult sects whose prophets grew like mushrooms,” as Walter Laqueur wrote, the Bruderhof was targeted for elimination. (Laqueur, quoted in de Graaf, p. 16)
Formed in 1920, the Bruderhof sect was raided in 1937 and its leaders imprisoned. They were saved when their jailers were called to one of the Nazi Party rallies in Nuremberg with its searchlight nighttime spectacle, enabling the remaining jailer crew to set free the Bruderhof members. All the remaining Bruderhof members sought asylum first in England then elsewhere, yet were refused everywhere except Paraguay, due to concerns that they may be German spies. After WWII the Bruderhof immigrated to the U.S.A.
If People Wanted to Live Communally, There Would Be More of It
Why are there not more people living communally today? We became human while living in small communal groups for hundreds of thousands of years before civilization, and it has been shown in various studies that our brains have thereby been conditioned for community and cooperation.
In People of the Lake: Mankind and its Beginnings Richard Leakey and Roger Lewin state that, …
Reciprocal altruism works on the tacit assumption that favors are repaid in roughly the same measure. … The ideal breeding ground for the evolution of reciprocal altruism is in a group of long-lived, egalitarian, social animals who remain close together throughout their lives. … This is precisely what one would expect; over countless generations natural selection favored the emergence of emotions that made reciprocal altruism work, emotions such as sympathy, gratitude, guilt and moral indignation. … Sharing, not hunting or gathering as such, is what made us human. (Leakey & Lewin, emphasis in the original, pp. 120, 136-7)
Researchers at Emory University in Atlanta, GA found a way to determine the differences among people with respect to sharing and possessiveness, and cooperation and competition. Using magnetic resonance imaging, they studied the neural activity in volunteers playing a laboratory game called the “Prisoner’s Dilemma,” which was set up with a reward system that logically and rationally favored competition. Yet they found that the greatest activity in parts of the brain that registers pleasure
resulted when the players cooperated. “In some ways, it says that we’re wired to cooperate with each other.” Yet, ironically, the dominant culture is designed for privacy and competition. (Angier, 2002)
So, why is communalism such a marginal culture? Young adults typically experiment with communalism once they leave the family, or rely upon some form of the sharing lifestyle out of economic necessity, political idealism, or for social connections, yet as people’s income increases, and as they experience the complications of collectivity, most tend to buy privacy and self-reliance.
As the early 20th century Wandervogel history and the 1960s counterculture show, every era of major cultural change typically involves a renewed enthusiasm for communalism among at least young adults. This can be seen all through the history of Western civilization, as presented in the Amazon ebook by the current author, titled: The Intentioneers Bible.
There are a number of reasons why the communal lifestyle is so rare and often short lived. One reason, as shown in the previous section about the German Bruderhof in Nazi Germany, is that the dominant culture of greed, competition, and avarice often persecutes and destroys communal groups. During the German Wandervogel youth movement there was a back-to-the-land movement that did not survive long, partly due to the naiveté of urban youth trying to survive in the country, and partly due to the rise of the Hitler Youth movement, which “copied the trappings and rhetoric of the earlier counterculture, while adding a strong dose of Nazi discipline and ideology.” (de Graaf, p. 18)
The communal Christian Bruderhof movement survived because it managed to get out of Germany before WWII and has since thrived in America, partly because of its centralized management structure, and partly because religion is a strong cohesive force in community. Besides the Bruderhof there are several successful communal religious groups in America, including: Catholic monasticism, which has been drastically shrinking in numbers since 1970 as women have been breaking glass ceilings to find more occupational options than housewife or cloistered nun; some of the Anabaptist Mennonites and most of the Hutterites, both starting in 16th century Europe and immigrating to America; and the American-grown Twelve Tribes or Messianic communities. Some Hindu communities and other communal religious groups have also survived in North America. The only significant secular or multi-faith communal group to survive the 1960s counterculture is the Federation of Egalitarian Communities (FEC), which has not grown as much as have the religious groups, as they have only about doubled in population in forty-five years. The main reasons that the FEC groups have survived is because of their decentralized management structure, the vacation-credit, time-based, non-monetary internal economy used in the largest communities, Twin Oaks and East Wind, and their focus upon gender-equal partnership, all of which substitutes for the role of patriarchal religion in community.
To understand why communalism is not more prevalent today, while privacy and competition is the dominant lifestyle, consider that the process of creating communal society takes people back to the prehistoric, sharing culture long before money was invented, showing how most people subsequently abandoned the sharing of common property for the accumulation and trade of private property.
Whatever things people had learned to make during the late Neolithic era, it is likely that they also learned to barter those things amongst themselves. In the midst of a natural world of plenty, the processes of bartering found-things and human-made things was likely already being developed and practiced. The very same dynamic is seen at Gatherings of the Rainbow Family of Living Light, a countercultural network begun in the American West in 1972, now worldwide, holding regular gatherings usually on public land, involving primitive camping in the wilderness, away from the vehicle parking areas. Even though people bring to the Gathering all necessities for communal sharing, a large number of Rainbows insist upon spreading a blanket on the ground displaying their private property of found and human-made things for trade. Incessant haggling for trades proceeds daily during warm, sunny weather as a pleasant, colorful past-time along the Rainbow Barter Lane.
While there is no use of money for buying and selling at non-commercial Rainbow Gatherings, there is almost always a Barter Lane, a practice that very likely predated the invention of agriculture in our prehistory. Over and over again, Rainbow Gatherings recreate the conditions of Neolithic and earlier human culture, and thereby the very processes that set us on the road to civilization as we know it today. Anyone can experience this dynamic simply by attending a Rainbow Gathering.
For another example of how it is that communalism is not more prevalent today, consider why the dominant culture is comprised of isolated nuclear families living in competition, rather than communal groups living in cooperation. Many people simply find that a family with children meets their needs for togetherness and affection, without the complications of group living. Their children may seek community as young adults, yet upon their having children of their own they tend to return to the social design of the nuclear family. In most cases, no matter how committed one is to the ideal of communal society, once a person has a child, we suddenly prefer to create a nuclear family.
While some religious communal groups invest much effort in keeping their children from leaving the communal society, other communal groups recognize that they do not need children, as they can readily attract adults, usually young adults, to become members and carry on the communal tradition. Why invest in raising children when most likely they will not agree with their parents’ commitment to the sharing lifestyle, and leave when they become adults? 2000 years of Catholic monasticism provides ample proof that children are not needed in communal society. This, plus the irony of temporary autonomous zones like Burning Man and Rainbow Family Gatherings spontaneously generating barter groups for exchanging private property within ostensibly gifting and sharing cultures, shows why communalism is such a marginal culture within the dominant corporate-capitalist, patriarchal culture.
Given the marginality of communalism in contemporary society, there remains the possibility that a dynamic new communal tradition could arise and grow in the right social-political-economic environment. The 12th century saw the high-water mark of Catholic monasticism in Europe, covering as much as one-quarter of the developed land. (Knowles, pp. 77, 83, 96-7) A similar phenomenon could repeat. A future world beset by drastic economic or climate-change-induced dark-age-like disruptions of civilization, typically beginning when children can no longer be educated, could result in a return to collectivism as means of survival. Existing models of egalitarian society, with different levels of collectivity, with or without children, are available when needed. (See: A. Allen Butcher, “Too Much of a Good Thing.” 2023. Self-published. Available with Google Docs link.)
The Solution to Economic Collapse for Wall Street Banks
Susan Strange was the Professor of International Political Economy at the University of Warwick in England, and Emeritus Professor at the London School of Economics. In her 1986 book Casino Capitalism she states, … “The Western financial system is rapidly coming to resemble nothing as much as a vast casino. … As in a casino, the world of high finance today offers the players a choice of games. Instead of roulette, blackjack, or poker, there is dealing to be done—the foreign exchange market and all its variations; or in bonds, government securities or shares. In all these markets you may place bets on the future by dealing forward and by buying or selling options and all sorts of other recondite [i.e., obscure] financial inventions. Some of the players—banks especially—play with very large stakes. There are also many quite small operators. There are tipsters, too, selling advice, and peddlers of systems to the gullible. And the croupiers in this global financial casino are the big bankers and brokers. They play, as it were, “for the house.” It is they, in the long run, who make the best living.” (Strange, p. 1)
Practically any event in the real world could snowball into something that would affect the credit and foreign exchange markets, requiring transnational corporations along with importers and exporters to carefully protect themselves from such risks. The need is then to diversify a company’s capital assets and liabilities, and the best way to do that is by “geographical diversification,” meaning having corporate offices in different countries with different currencies. The result of that long-run strategy, Strange points out, is the tendency of a firm, “to increase their short-term needs for hedging against exchange rate risks, thus adding still further to the volume of transactions in the financial casino.” (Strange, pp. 12-3)
In his 2010 book, On the Brink: Inside the Race to Stop the Collapse of the Global Financial System, the U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson explained that the stress of the ongoing crisis, later to be called the “Great Recession,” was weighing upon him.
Sunday, September 14, 2008. “Back in my temporary office on the 13th floor [of the New York Federal Reserve bank], a jot of fear suddenly overcame me as I thought for a moment of what lay ahead of us. Lehman [bank] was as good as dead, and American International Group’s (AIG) problems were spiraling out of control. With the U.S. sinking deeper into recession, the failure of a large financial institution would reverberate throughout the country—and far beyond our shores. I could see credit tightening, strapped companies slashing jobs, foreclosures rising ever faster: millions of Americans would lose their livelihoods and their homes. It would take years for us to dig ourselves out from under such a disaster. (Paulson, p. 214)
“All weekend I’d been wearing my crisis armor, but now I felt my guard slipping as I gave in to anxiety. I knew I had to call my wife, … (Paulson, p. 215)
“What if the system collapses?” I asked her. “Everybody is looking to me, and I don’t have the answer. I am really scared.” (Paulson, p. 215)
“You needn’t be afraid,” Wendy said. “Your job is to reflect God, Infinite Mind, and you can rely upon Him.”” (Paulson, p. 215)
Friday, September 12, 2008. Treasury Secretary Paulson called a meeting at the New York Federal Reserve of Wall Street CEOs to come up with a rescue for Lehman Brothers bank. They had to work
together to save one of their competitors, because otherwise the impact upon the financial markets and their own companies could be disastrous. Everyone in the room knew that AIG was now in trouble, and the CEOs asked why they should weaken their companies to help one competitor, if the next rescue to be crafted was going to be an even bigger problem, with more problems beyond that successively impacting the financial industry? Tim Geithner, president of the New York Fed responded, “Let’s focus on Lehman.” (Paulson, pp. 192-3)
For a room full of convinced free-marketers beset by the “classic question of collective action,” the issue became at what point does the good of the group overrule individual needs? If each company now had to be prepared to help its competitors, how then can the worth of any particular company be accurately gauged by the market? (Paulson, p. 198)
The world had suddenly gone topsy-turvy. It was no longer business-as-usual. It was a very unusual business when the assumptions of the capitalist free-market had to be replaced by the necessity of collective survival. The CEOs working with Geithner and Paulson that weekend at the New York Fed were being asked by the government to set aside their individual concerns for the long-range good of their industry. Jamie Dimon of J. P. Morgan pointed out that his bank would act responsibly in this crisis, yet that he “ran a for-profit institution and had an obligation to his shareholders.” The stated goal was to create a private-sector consortium that presumably would be able to aid any other financial-industry corporation that might need it next, like Merrill Lynch or Morgan Stanley. Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs asked, “Do you think this makes sense? … Goldman will act responsibly. We’ll do our part, but this is asking a lot, and I’m not sure it makes sense.” (Paulson, p. 201)
Lehman Brothers bank collapsed in September 2008 and the government bailout of Wall Street was well underway. The Great Recession was challenging many people to step outside of the free-market box. In the process of responding to a macro-economic threat to the entire country and the globalized financial system, the U.S. Government was trying hard to rescue major corporations without nationalizing them, while the corporations themselves were having to change their competitive skins to begin to look and function like they were part of a collective intentional banking community practicing mutual aid.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008. It was learned that AIG needed $85 billion. Paulson writes, “AIG’s incompetence was stunning.” The previous Sunday that figure had been (only) $50 billion, so how could AIG be sinking so rapidly? They needed $14 billion by the close of the next business day! (Paulson, p. 229)
Secretary Paulson admitted that the proposed solution was essentially to bail out Wall Street. The Fed chairman, Ben Bernanke, explained to President Bush, “We are past the point of what the Fed and Treasury can do on their own.” Now it was up to Congress to revise the nation’s fiscal policy to save the economy, and raise the nation’s debt limit to do it. In his phone conversation with Secretary Paulson, President Bush naively commented, “Someday you guys are going to have to tell me how we ended up with a system like this and what we need to do to fix it.” Friday, October 3 congress passed the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (EES Act). (Paulson, pp. 237, 256-7, 328)
Monday, October 13, 2008. The heads of nine of the largest U.S. banks arrived at the U.S. Treasury building, compelled to attend a meeting where they would have to work together. They waded through a cordon of photographers and reporters on the steps of the Treasury building, entered the conference room, and sat on one side of the Department’s twenty-four-foot-long mahogany conference table, in alphabetical order according to the names of their banks: Bank of America, Bank of New York Mellon,
Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, J. P. Morgan, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, State Street Corporation, and Wells Fargo. Together they held over half of all bank deposits in the U.S. Facing them was: Henry Paulson, Treasury Secretary; Tim Geithner, president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank; Ben Bernanke, Federal Reserve chairman; Sheila Bair chair of the FDIC; and John Dougan, Comptroller of the Currency. (Paulson, pp. 359, 363)
Secretary Paulson began with saying that they had been summoned because they and their institutions had to work together to save the country’s financial system, their companies, and their own jobs. He explained the solution that the government had devised, of the $250 billion that would be divided among them, and they were to sign a paper before they left agreeing to accept the capital infusions from the Treasury into their banks. (Paulson, pp. 362-3)
Richard Kovacevich, chairman of Wells Fargo resisted. ““I’m not one of you New York guys with your fancy products. Why am I in this room, talking about bailing you out?” … For a moment no one said a word, and then the room suddenly broke out in pandemonium, with everyone talking over one another.” (Sorkin, p. 525)
John Thain of Merrill Lynch asked what all the bankers wanted to know yet that no one else would question, “What kind of protections can you give us on changes in compensation policy?” His concern was that once the government had a stake in their companies, could a populist campaign force changes in the CEO’s pay? (Sorkin, p. 525)
Ben Bernanke interjected, “I don’t really understand why there needs to be so much tension about this, [think about] the collective good. Look, we’re not trying to be intimidating or pushy. …” (Sorkin, p. 526)
In late November Citigroup requested government aid for insuring $300 billion of its toxic assets of mortgage securities and corporate loans, even though in October the Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit had received $25 billion of the EES Act funds. Without a rescue, Citigroup with $3 trillion in assets, would run out of cash by the following week. (Paulson, pp. 365, 410-1)
Andrew Sorkin states in his book, Too Big To Fail, that before the financial crisis Citigroup had been the largest American financial institution, and as it kept coming back to suck more and more money out of the government, Treasury officials began calling it the “Death Star.” (Sorkin, p. 530)
Secretary Paulson later wrote, “I had become the Treasury secretary who would forever be associated with government intervention and bank bailouts. The speed with which the crisis hit had left me no other choice, and I had set aside strict ideology to accomplish the higher goal of saving a system that, even with all its flaws, was better than any other I knew—I had been forced to do things I did not believe in to save what I did believe in.” (Paulson, p. 408)
There was plenty of criticism to go around. In 2009 Congress created the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission to analyze what went wrong and how to fix the causes of the Great Recession, publishing its report in 2011 titled, The Financial Crisis Inquiry Report. In their book, All the Devils are Here, Bethany McLean and Joe Nocera wrote, “[I]t was very hard to find the line between delusion, venality, and outright corruption. Much of what took place during the crisis was immoral, unjust, craven, delusional behavior―but it wasn’t criminal.” (McLean and Nocera, pp. 361-2)
Even if his actions were not technically criminal, the person who most deserves to be held responsible for the Great Recession is Robert Rubin, the U.S. Treasury Secretary who “lobbied from his government post in 1999 to repeal Glass-Steagall,” then who as a consultant at Citigroup made $40 million as he worked to help the mega-bank take advantage of the relaxed regulations, then in 2000 he opposed the government regulation of derivatives. Ralph Nader says of Rubin in his 2014 book Unstoppable that, “He has not yet recanted from the gigantic folly of his concoctions. … Rubin experiences no shunning and is on the social circuit in New York and Washington, D.C.” (McLean & Nocera pp. 105-7; Nader, p. 157)
What Bethany McLean and Joe Nocera express, of course, is what is called, “business as usual.” Financialization is essentially the creation of ever more risky, high-stakes games in casino capitalism. Paul Volker, former chair of the Federal Reserve, explained at a Wall Street Journal conference in 2009 his view about financialization that it did practically nothing for the economy. “I have found very little evidence that vast amounts of innovation in financial markets in recent years have had a visible effect on the productivity of the economy.” (McLean & Nocera, p. 363)
Andrew Ross Sorkin states in Too Big to Fail about the unregulated financial instruments called securitized mortgages, collateralized-debt obligations and the various “derivatives” such as credit default swaps and stock options contracts that, “Warren Buffett called them weapons of mass destruction.” (Sorkin, p. 156)
One thing that is not mentioned by any of the authors cited in this story (except Ralph Nader, pp. 142-3), neither Henry Paulson, nor Andrew Ross Sorkin, nor Bethany McLean and Joe Nocera, in any of their conclusions and lists of lessons about the Great Recession, is that the financial cooperatives called “credit unions” had none of the problems of the banks, either before, during, or after the massive economic dislocation of the corporate capitalist system. The only significant impact of the Great Recession upon the credit unions is that membership in the movement substantially increased as people learned that credit unions are safer, have their own government-backed deposit insurance, and are more fiscally responsible than banks. This is an important lesson to keep in mind about the Great Recession, because there are many who believe that the next great economic calamity will be too big for the U.S. Congress to bail out.
Riding-Out the Storm in the Ecovillage
While the corporate dinosaurs were stumbling drunk and crashing, deathly poisoned by financialization, furry little financial cooperatives and ecovillages were nimbly avoiding being squashed in the milieu. Consumer financial cooperatives, called credit unions, had long been established, while the ecovillage movement was just beginning to evolve within the intentional communities movement, at the time that a benefactor found them.
J. T. Ross Jackson had worked as what Karen Litfin states as an international currency trader, who designed computer software to facilitate the business of his profession. In his 1996 Communities magazine article, “The Global Eco-Village Network (GEN): Encouraging Model Ecovillages Worldwide,” Jackson describes his background as having been in “operations research and international finance.” (Jackson, p. 40; Litfin, p. 12)
Evidently, Ross Jackson was one of those people who helped to create the infrastructure supporting the financialization of the international monetary system. Between 1984 and ’86 Jackson designed and sold computer software for the foreign exchange currency markets, managing to get himself in the right place, at the right time, with the right skills, to help bring on the greatest crisis in neo-liberal market capitalism since the 1930s Great Depression. Surely, if Ross Jackson had not done it, someone else would have.
What probably no one else would have done, however, is rather than live a life of leisure with his earnings, Ross Jackson started a foundation named Gaia Trust to fund the nascent ecovillage movement. As Jackson explains in Kali Yuga Odyssey, a spiritual experience he had with Swami Muktananda inspired him to use his skills and resources to support what at the time was a very young ecovillage movement. Ross and partner Hildur had early-on been involved in the beginning of the cohousing movement in Denmark, living twenty years in the community they helped found.
Redeeming himself for having participated in bringing-on, and profiting from, the greatest global financial evil in a century, Ross Jackson co-created a movement, the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN), that promises the best hope for survival through not only economic collapse, yet also potentially though the ecological collapse which is daily growing ever more imminent.
In the 2016 Communities magazine article, co-authored by Ross and Hildur Jackson titled, “The Global Ecovillage Network: Focal Point for a Global Movement,” the authors state, …
Whether the global economy collapsed or we were able to make a planned transition to a sustainable future, I understood that it would be necessary in either case to build a new culture. At the foundation of this culture must necessarily be sustainable human settlements, and for this we needed good models. I believed that a network of ecovillages that provided such models would be an extremely valuable base on which to build. (Jackson & Jackson, p. 14)
For sixteen years, from 1987 to 2003, the Gaia Trust funded the start-up of Global Ecovillage Network centers around the world, then supported ecovillage training programs, including the “Sustainability Wheel” method of teaching the many related topics, published in Hildur Jackson’s and Karen Svensson’s 2002 book, Ecovillage Living: Restoring the Earth and Her People. (See: http://www.Gaia.org)
As the forces of ecological disaster by global warming, and of economic disaster by financialization of the economy, continue to build toward the next global economic implosion, the work of Ross Jackson to help build the counterculture, which is defined by Theodore Roszak in The Making of a Counter Culture as “a culture so radically disaffiliated from the main-stream assumptions of our society that it … takes on the alarming appearance of a barbaric intrusion,” may be considered keen visionary foresight for supporting the next step of humanity out of the Anthropocene of human disruption of nature and into the Symbiocene of human-and-nature harmony.
Teaching Counterculture in the School of Intentioneering
There had been no imperative compelling enough to provide sufficient reason for global intentional community movement networking beyond affinity networks and regional associations until the advent of the ecovillage concept and the founding of the Global Ecovillage Network. No political, economic, or social concern or identity has ever motivated cross-movement networking of intentional communities as has the concern for the environment and the desire to live in harmony with it.
The term “intentional community” was developed for an international conference of collective settlements in 1949, not long after World War II, aided by conscientious objectors of the war. The resulting organization called the “Fellowship of Intentional Communities” (FIC) was reformed in 1986 by the next generation of communitarians or intentioneers with a name-change to the “Fellowship for Intentional Community.” In 2019 yet another new generation renamed the organization again to the “Foundation for Intentional Community.” The word “intentional” was originally chosen due to its connotations of intent, purpose, and commitment, and the word “fellowship” was used to emphasize friendly relationships among people in different intentional communities, which became the primary value of regular FIC meetings. For a group to be called an “intentional community” a minimum of two families and one single male, or five adults, would need to be living “close enough together geographically to be in continuous active fellowship.” (Morgan, Griscom, pp. 9-10) Over the decades the FIC has gradually developed various programs for networking the world of communities, and has allied with various other organizations such as the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN).
GEN has published a book for the Ecovillage Design Education (EDE) curriculum taught around the world since 2005 called, Teacher’s Guide: Design for Sustainability (see: http://www.GaiaEducation.org). GEN rarely uses the term “intentional community,” and it is hard to find it in the GEN Teacher’s Guide. This may be partly due to GEN publications coming from Europe, while the term was coined in the United States. Essentially, GEN substitutes the term “ecovillage” for “intentional community,” making the two terms almost synonymous, although not entirely, since on page 127 of the Teacher’s Guide it is written, “… ecovillages and other intentional communities.” This acknowledges that not all intentional communities can or want to be called an ecovillage. Yet the entire book is about intentional community, which becomes most apparent in the chapter “Choosing Community Legal Structures.”
For the School of Intentioneering, the current author uses a minimum of three non-related adults, rather than five, to constitute an intentional community (IC), and begins with affirming that there are two general types of ICs: nonprofit and for-profit.
Prior to the 21st century, most ICs were nonprofit, with only a few being for-profit, the latter organized as joint-stock corporations, cooperative corporations, or as what the current author calls “class-harmony” communities. In the 1960s and ‘70s the cohousing movement developed in Europe, coming to the U.S. in the late 1980s as a for-profit community design. Cohousing is now a world-wide movement, with some cohousing groups calling themselves ecovillages and some not. Nonprofit ICs incorporate in their state as not-for-profit organizations, some of which then obtain IRS tax-exempt status. Most nonprofit ICs hold their land in common and may be called “community land trusts,” although not all do. Some land trust communities and those with fully communal economies obtain some form of tax-exempt status. In 1936 the U.S. Congress created a tax-exempt status specifically for communal societies called 501(d) “Religious and Apostolic Associations.” Many Christian ICs use the 501(d) form of organization, including Hutterite and Bruderhof communities, along with the multi-faith Federation of Egalitarian Communities.
There is much confusion in the use of terms for classifying and describing different types of intentional community. As with the issue of the terms “ecovillage” and “intentional community” being nearly synonymous, the term “kibbutz” is now also synonymous with IC, since 75% of the once strictly communal kibbutz movement has now privatized to forms of cohousing on government-owned land trusts. With many new people joining or writing about ICs, people tend to use terms indiscriminately.
To reduce the confusion in how people refer to and define intentional community, the School of Intentioneering uses economic classifications based upon how the communities are legally structured. At the bottom of the graphic called Forms of Legal Organization Used by Intentional Communities on the previous page is a table titled, “The Economic Continuum: Showing which Legal Structures are used for particular forms of Intentional Community.” The economic continuum used ranges from “Sharing Commonly-Owned Property” to “Sharing Privately-Owned Property,” with mixtures, or those communities having both commonly-owned and privately-owned property, in the middle, called “Economically-Diverse Community.” There are other ways to classify the many different types of intentional community, with each commentator on the movement tending to use common terms in different ways. While people can call any community at hand what ever they like, clarifying the type of economic system and the legal structure used by the community can minimize the confusion.
As taught in the School of Intentioneering, the issue of sharing versus privacy is answered differently in different types of intentional community. In communities like cohousing which share privately-owned property one begins with the assumption of privacy and asks, “How much am I willing to share?” In contrast, in communities which share commonly-owned property, like communal societies, one begins with the assumption of sharing and asks, “How much privacy do I need?” The difference is in the often-expressed conflict between individuality and collectivity, and each community design finds an appropriate balance between these levels of consciousness, such that ideally neither the individual nor the group is submerged by the other.
Classifying intentional communities according to their degree of sharing versus privacy in the community refers primarily to how money is used in the community. Of course, communal societies do not use money at all within the community, only for exchange with the outside world. So then, how do communal societies organize production and consumption?
For the School of Intentioneering the type of economy used to replace some of the functions of money in intentional community is called “time-based economics,” contrasting with the “debt-based economics” of the monetary system. Time-based economies use various forms of sharing economies while debt-based monetary economies use various forms of exchange economies, each with opposing theories, as presented in the graphic on the following page. Sharing economies use gifting, fair-share, or labor-quota systems, while exchange economies use labor exchange, barter, or monetary systems.
The most significant aspect of time-based economies, in which all labor is valued equally, is that domestic labor or reproduction is rewarded the same way as all other labor: industrial, business, agriculture, maintenance, and the rest. Since there is no exchange of money or anything else for labor, then obviously all labor is valued equally. Most communal groups that do not have a structured labor system for sharing the work usually fail and dissolve as the problem of the free-rider syndrome causes dissention and withdrawal from the communal group. Religious intentional communities tend to maintain cohesion through their belief system, while secular and multi-faith communities support the highest values and ethical ideals through labor systems. The most involved labor system is called the “vacation-credit, labor-sharing system,” developed at Twin Oaks Community by Kat Kinkade in 1967.
People seek in community the gentle strength, security, and meaningful engagement in the company of like-minded friends, afforded in collective methods of survival through uncertainty. Designing a community lifestyle has different requirements and outcomes than focusing upon the isolated nuclear-family American Dream of the single-family home surrounded by lawns and fencing. In contrast, the Collective Dream focuses upon building social capital as security against changing times and fortunes, valuing the clustering of housing and work spaces in order to provide as much space as possible for gardens and other living things.
Collectivization is a method for creating a lifestyle of mutual aid amongst a group of unrelated people sharing common affinities, understandings, and agreements, as well as a natural response to threat. Collective Dream communities can be comprised of unrelated individuals, or of a group of nuclear families with or without unrelated individuals. For the definitions used in the School of Intentioneering, small groups of 3-to-9 related and unrelated children and adults are called both a “cofamily” and a form of small intentional community. The “co” prefix in “cofamily,” just like in “cohousing,” is unspecified as it can mean: collective, combined, communal, community, compersion, complex, complicated, composite, or cooperative family. While ten people and more is a large enough group to adopt aspects of a specific form of intentional community, such as a communal society, cohousing, community land trust, housing cooperative, etc., small cofamilies may be nested within one of those larger forms of intentional community.
While much may be taken for granted among relatives in the patriarchal lifestyle, creating a cofamily requires deliberate effort with regard to finding compatible friends and making and keeping necessary agreements among them. Such cofamilies have always existed. Using the partnership-culture model developed by Riane Eisler of the Center for Partnership Systems, the resources provided by the Foundation for Intentional Community (FIC), and the quarterly journal Communities of the Global Ecovillage Network—U.S. (GEN-US), there is much information and assistance available for creating and enjoying the cofamily lifestyle. (See: http://www.centerforpartnership.org, and http://www.ic.org, and http://www.gen-us.net/communities)
To suggest that the Collective Dream coevolves with the American Dream as two parallel cultures evolving apace is not so radical an idea considering that the definitions of both the American Dream and the Collective Dream have continually evolved with the development of the country.
In the Gale Student Resources paper How the American Dream Has Changed Over Time it is explained that the concept of the American Dream began with the founding of the country on the premise that, “people could break free from class restrictions and pursue the life they chose … [and] people had the chance to work their way up through their own labor and ingenuity.” This was justified by a seemingly limitless frontier, until the early 20th century when the Great Depression sandwiched between two World Wars again revised the American Dream, to involve government assistance in helping citizens to “work together to make life better for the American masses.” This government aid was seen in the New Deal programs, including those supporting urban collectives and rural communities. (Gale Student Resources in Context, p. 1)
Around the turn of the 19th century into the 20th century there were two “American Dreams,” one for the patriarchal culture “closely tied to home ownership … with products to help improve life at home,” as explained in the 2016 Gale Student Resources paper, and another parallel culture described by Dolores Hayden in her 1984 book Redesigning the American Dream. Hayden coined the term “material feminist” to refer to those who believed that, “women must create new kinds of homes with socialized housework and child care before they could become truly equal members of society.” (Hayden, p. 29)
Between 1870 and 1920 there were many experimental “neighborhood networks” in theory and practice in which women shared domestic work among several households, yet none survived the 1930s Great Depression and 1940s World War II. (Hayden, pp. 67, 72-3)
Beginning in the late 1960s the communal egalitarian communities [see: http://www.theFEC.org] created a successful balance of common and private space, in which men and women shared both domestic-household labor and income-generating work, valuing both equally in time-based economic systems. The most advanced form of time economy is the “vacation-credit labor system” developed at Twin Oaks Community in 1967. Not until the late 1980s in the U.S., with the arrival from Denmark of the cohousing community design, would the private-property design of the “intentional neighborhood” create the same kind of shared gender-roles as the communal egalitarian communities or FEC, now by sharing privately-owned property in cohousing rather than commonly-owned property in communal society.
It is amazing that just a few years after Dolores Hayden published her book Redesigning the American Dream everything that the material feminists wanted began to be realized in the cohousing movement! The “classic cohousing” movement has since become the second largest international intentional community movement after the ecovillage. With the trend of applying the “cohousing” name to a variety of forms of intentional community, just like with the term “ecovillage,” it is difficult to prove which movement is larger. At the same time, the terminology used to describe the evolving Collective Dream has changed, transforming terms such as “socialism” and “material feminism” into: “social ecology,” “social permaculture,” “ecofeminism,” and “ecopartnership.”
In the history of communitarian movements, the current time may be considered to be another period of awakening to the community ideal, with the 2020s evidencing the 7th wave of communitarianism in at least the U.S.A. A good indicator of this new wave is the increasing confusion in the use of terms referring to specific forms of intentional community, which can be considered an indication that a lot of new people unfamiliar with the history are talking about and getting involved with intentional community. The earlier waves of communitarianism include: the 6th wave of the 1990s “classic cohousing” and ecovillages; the 5th wave of the 1960s and ‘70s urban and back-to-the-land communities; the 4th wave of 1930s New Deal government-supported and Great Depression era communities; the 3rd wave of 1880s to ‘90s anarchist, socialist, Georgist, Hutterite and Mennonite communities; the 2nd wave of 1820s to ‘50s Owenite and Fourierist communities; and the 1st wave of the 18th century immigrant German Pietist and English Separatist communities. (See: Timeline of Communitarianism: Intentional Communities and Utopian Literature at http://www.culturemagic.org/PDF/c2Timeline.pdf)
Intentional communities are typically village-scale, gifting and sharing cultures, often created as ideal societies or utopias in reaction to or separate from perceived inadequacies of the dominant culture. While all of us have tribal culture in our ancestry, intentional community is neo-tribalism in which people choose their preferred tribe. Indigenous peoples comprise the largest part of the Fourth World of locally-based economics, governance and culture, with the smaller part being of people who have at least figuratively left the First World, global, market-based, dominant culture, to join the non-indigenous intentional community wing of the Fourth World.
Expressing the ideals of social and of environmental responsibility results in varieties of the ecovillage lifestyle, which is simply intentional community with a sustainable, regenerative, ecological focus. Mutual aid among a group of people reinforcing the rights and responsibilities of community, evidences social permaculture when emphasizing the ecopartnership ideas of the sharing of gender roles among women and men in partnership culture, and of the human stewardship of creation as a form of human symbiotic, co-existence with nature.
The cofamily concept of small groups of people formed around shared affinities and interests creates the partnership form of family for the Religious Left, contrasting with that of the patriarchal nuclear, extended, and blended families. Gender-equal, partnership-oriented cofamilies of both non-related and related persons enjoying gifting and sharing lifestyles, provide the partnership solution to abortion, as alternative to the patriarchal-family solution to abortion advocated by the Religious Right. As clashes over abortion in America’s culture war have been renewed in recent election cycles, the Religious Left and the intentional communities movement offers the cofamily as an additional or optional form of family to help reduce the need or demand for abortions.
The issues of abortion, racial justice, environmental degradation, and probably others are all tied to the economic wellbeing of individuals and the population in general. In particular, abortions are more likely to be sought when times are hard and the American Dream appears unattainable.
Issues of family design and lifestyle aspirations are likely to be some of the reasons why the patriarchal Christian religion is in decline in the U.S.A. In 2015 the Pew Research Center reported that, “… the percentage of adults who describe themselves as Christian has dropped by nearly eight percentage points in just seven years, from 78.4% in … 2007 to 70.6% in 2014. Over the same period, the percentage of Americans who are religiously unaffiliated—describing themselves as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular,” called “nones” by Pew Research—jumped more than six points, from 16.1% to 22.8%.” In 2021 the Pew Research Center determined that the number of Christians in America dropped to 64%, with the “nones” comprising 30% of the U.S. population. These changes in the religious attitudes of Americans suggest opportunities for a ministry or crusade emphasizing gender-equal, Partnership Spirituality in the Religious Left! (Pew Research Center, 2015, p. 1; Pew Research Center, 2021, p. 1)
With the increase of working from home during the Covid pandemic, home-based income labor has become much more common, making the gender-equal Collective Dream lifestyle much more attainable. In the early 2020s there are now about 165 cohousing communities in the U.S., with an average of about 35 households each. With the average U.S. household now comprised of only about 2.5 persons, doing the math: 165 cohousing communities x 35 households x 2.5 persons = 14,438 people in classic cohousing community. As there are currently as many cohousing groups in development as there are established communities, and as it takes five or more years to build the classic cohousing model using the condominium legal, land-use, and space-use designs, by 2030 there will likely be 30,000 people in classic cohousing communities in the U.S. However, since the term “cohousing” is being used indiscriminately and synonymously with “intentional community,” the cohousing numbers game could explode in the same way as has the ecovillage movement. (See: http://www.cohousing.org)
The 2016 U.S. Census snapshot of American family statistics reveals the recent state of the American Dream:
• The number of married-adult households has been steadily dropping to now about half of all households. (“Families and Living Arrangements” Table AD-3b)
• The number of adults living alone has been steadily raising to now nearly a third of all households. (“Families and Living Arrangements” Tables AD-3a and HH-4)
• Births to unmarried women comprised 40% of all births in 2014, resulting in about a quarter of all households being of single-parent families, with half of all single-parent children living in poverty. (“America’s Children in Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2016” Family and Social Environment and List of Tables; also, “Families and Living Arangements” tables HH-1 and CH-1)
These points about marriage, living alone, single-parenting, and child poverty suggest failings or inadequacies of the contemporary American Dream, and the need for a Collective Dream offering the gender-partnership of the cofamily as an available alternative to the cultural assumptions and experiences of the patriarchal American Dream.
The patriarchal, nuclear-family American Dream is considered to have worked best in the USA from about 1950 to about 1965, although it required women to be house-wives, men to be employed mortgage-holders, and support for the family structure from every political-economic institution. Beginning in the early 1970s the monetary system changed, and soon one wage-earner was not enough to support a family’s American Dream. (Brooks, pp. 3-4)
The conservative columnist and Public Broadcast Service (PBS) news analyst David Brooks wrote an article for The Atlantic magazine titled “The Nuclear Family Was A Mistake” in which he explains the devolution of the American family from the large, extended family clan of the past to the small, detached, nuclear family of today. The devolution of the American family continues as evidenced by the American family statistics presented above.
David Brooks writes that, “we’re likely living through the most rapid change in family structure in human history. The causes are economic, cultural, and institutional all at once. … In 1960, roughly 5 percent of children were born to unmarried women. Now about 40 percent are. … Social conservatives insist that we can bring the nuclear family back. But the conditions that made for stable nuclear families in the 1950s are never returning. … Conservative ideas have not caught up with this reality … and so for decades things have been falling apart.” (Brooks, pp. 6, 7, 8, 9)
In his article David Brooks mentions that for-profit corporations are creating extended-family-like community living opportunities for single-adults, which in the School of Intentioneering is called “coliving,” in which the property owners do not live in the community, although he calls them “cohousing projects.” Brooks mentions that classic cohousing communities can be found around the country, calling these “chosen families—they transcend traditional kinship lines.” David Brooks created a social-action nonprofit organization called “Weave: The Social Fabric Project,” and he seems to be on the trail of the cofamily and intentional community, yet he does not proclaim intentional community as the answer to the social problems in America. (Brooks, pp. 12, 13; See: http://www.WeAreWeavers.org)
A good resource for studying the cultural pattern of collective families or cofamilies is the Communities Directory published by the Foundation for Intentional Community (FIC). The most recent version was printed in 2016, with an updated version planned (see: http://www.ic.org). In the 2010 Communities Directory 40% of the community listings reported membership of 3-to-9 people, presumably adults + children.
A good resource for home equity sharing for cofamilies is the manual: Shared Equity Homeownership: The Changing Landscape of Resale-Restricted, Owner-Occupied Housing. (See: https://groundedsolutions.org/tools-for-success/resource-library/shared-equity-homeownership-changing-landscape)
There has been an ongoing transition from a communities movement comprised primarily of nonprofit organizations, to communities using forms of for-profit organization. One reason for this would be that financing is easier to obtain for for-profit than for nonprofit organizations, which results in the for-profit form of community growing at roughly ten times the rate of nonprofit communities. While there has yet been no study quantifying this evolution, a telling comment suggesting the trend was made by Laird Schaub in his Communities magazine article “Cmag and Me” in which he states that in 2006 the Cmag collective decided upon an editorial policy of printing “at least one article every issue that highlighted efforts to develop a sense of community independent of commonly held property.” (Schaub, p. 52)
The ideal of the Collective Dream being a non-patriarchal, partnership lifestyle addresses all the concerns of: mutual aid, which among other things reduces the need for abortions through the cofamily; ecological responsibility through designing our material world to be sustainable, renewable and regenerative; cultural awareness and inclusiveness of diverse races, genders, ethnicities, and abilities; economic cooperation following the cooperative principles; and the practice of sharing resources and skills in community.
There is a clear benefit to society of the non-traditional cofamily in helping to keep children and their parents out of poverty, and potentially also in reducing the incidence of abortion, as people work together to support each other in partnership culture. (See: Riane Eisler, The Partnership Way, 1998) There is also a clear benefit to the individual of having a clan-like home comprised of like-minded people who are mutually supportive, caring, and nurturing. In this way the cofamily becomes the basic building-block of the Collective Dream. Intentioneers of the Collective Dream can together create gifting-and-sharing lifestyles that can make available to all a material and social life consistent with the ideals of partnership culture in a preferred future Symbiocene.
Intentioneering the Fourth World Commonwealth
In economics, the First World is the dominant culture of market-based economies. The Second World is state-planned economies, of which few remain, while the Third World is comprised of developing countries becoming either First or Second World. The Fourth World is comprised of societies that are happy with their local economies and are not trying to become part of the First or Second Worlds.
While traditional, tribal cultures comprise the largest part of the Fourth World, with small nations like Monaco, Bhutan, and small island nations being the next largest, many Fourth World cultures are comprised of non-indigenous people who were born into the First World who then decided to leave it to create alternative cultures of gifting and sharing, becoming part of the Fourth World. This includes all intentional communities, bioregional congresses, Transition Towns, and various regional democratic-decentralist associations such as the regional commonwealths of at least: the Zapatista region of southern Mexico; the Emilio-Romagna region of Italy; the Basque and Catalonia regions of Spain; the collectives of the San Francisco Bay Area of California; and the Kurdish region of northeast Syria.
The Institute for Social Ecology (ISE) in Vermont champions regional democratic-decentralist associations like those listed above, often using the French political term “commune” to refer to participatory, community-based governance on the local scale of towns and cities. Other terms used by ISE are “democratic confederalism,” “confederal municipalism” and “municipalist,” all referring to the same thing, which in the School of Intentioneering is called the “regional commonwealth.”
As the Twin Oaks—Institute for Social Ecology graphic above explains, the term “commune” has two meanings, an English economic meaning and a French political meaning. This can be confusing, so it helps to keep in mind that while Twin Oaks and similar intentional communities in the Federation of Egalitarian Communities have political or governance systems similar to ISE’s municipalist confederalism, the kind of economy that ISE advocates is not necessarily communal, despite ISE’s use of the term “commune” to describe them. ISE may be reducing its use of the term “commune” in favor of the term “municipalism,” which is gaining in acceptance and usage by community organizers of various kinds in cities around the U.S.A. and elsewhere in the Fourth World.
As a movement the Fourth World includes, as written in the announcement for the First Assembly of the Fourth World in 1981, “the whole spectrum of the alternative movement … for a human scale and a non-centralized, multi-cellular, power-dispersed world order.” (Fourth World, 1981) The Fourth World includes worker-owned and consumer-owned businesses, public banking, public budgeting, social entrepreneurialism, Creative Commons licenses, Georgist taxation of unearned income, and other forms of commons economics, all organized though democratic decentralism in the regional commonwealth. (See: David Bollier, Think Like a Commoner, http://www.bollier.org;Alanna Hartzok, The Earth Belongs to Everyone, http://www.earthrights.org)
Most alternative economic systems are Fourth World economies, other than crypto currencies and illegal, underworld economies like black markets, which may be considered to be part of the First World. These include local currencies as well as economic reform programs like the land-value tax, which preserves the economic value of land for the benefit of society as a whole rather than going as rent to land owners. The justification for programs such as the land-value tax is natural law, as opposed to human-made laws called “positive law.” Positive law is often intended to benefit certain populations or individuals over others, such as when a few people benefit from restricting or monopolizing access by the many to the abundance of the natural world, like the range of natural resources from minerals and water to the magnetic spectrum of broadcast frequencies, and even extra-terrestrial resources like the limited number of geo-stationary orbits. Fourth World political-economics affirms the natural law concept that the wealth of natural resources must be shared by all people.
The for-profit forms of intentional community have been the fastest growing, with the coliving movement being the largest, since it taps into the real estate investment markets. With private investors, corporate investment funds, hedge funds, real estate investment trusts (REITs), and other for-profit groups buying up single-family homes for rental income, the housing market is inflating and becoming less accessible for many people. In response, there needs to be a way for the communities movement to utilize the for-profit real estate investment model of owning various rental properties, in the way that the nonprofit regional community land trust (RCLT) movement involves a number of parcels of land in a given region owned by the RCLT.
By combining lease fees from each property in the RCLT, the land trust may be able to acquire additional properties, or attract funding for acquiring them. With all its properties combined in a solidarity economy of mutual aid, the RCLT can sponsor educational programs about land tenure, agriculture, and other concerns. A good example of the RCLT is the School of Living Community Land Trust. (See: http://www.schoolofliving.org/land-trust-communities)
Translating the land-solidarity model of the RCLT to the for-profit legal structure results in the real estate investment cooperative (REIC), as a form of equity-sharing, for-profit, regional intentional community organization. As the for-profit world is much larger than the nonprofit, REICs may become more prevalent than RCLTs. Eventually, the real estate cooperatives may convert some of their land into land trusts. Information on the REIC form of intentioneering is found at the Solidarity Economy Law Center and the East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative. (See: http://www.theselc.org and http://www.ebprec.org)
Intentioneering equity-sharing communities utilizes the for-profit system to build community, with the potential for real estate investment cooperatives to become a popular method for equity-sharing in community. The REIC model uses the cooperative corporation as motivation for community in the for-profit world, in the same way as the cohousing movement uses the condominium legal format, and the cooperative housing movement uses the cooperative corporation.
Our society and economy needs to provide for both private property and common property, so that people can choose for themselves how they want to live. The balance of private and of commons economics is determined by what is appropriate in different situations for meeting people’s needs and preferences. A regional commonwealth is then an organization involving participatory governance with an economic system incorporating both commonly-owned and privately-owned property.
Community is necessary for preserving and developing our humanity in both good times and bad. While some are enjoying good times today, others are not, and many of those in good times worry that it may not last for themselves or for their children. If patriarchal culture is an aspect of the Anthropocene, then to realize the Symbiocene new myths and narratives are needed such as those of the cofamily, the regional commonwealth, and the Fourth World. The School of Intentioneering exists to justify, teach, and promote multi-faith religion in Partnership Spirituality, ecopartnership in egalitarian and ecological culture, land commons and equity sharing, and biosphere consciousness.
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