From the forthcoming book: Intentioneers and Illuminati
A. Allen Butcher
Book IX: Chapter 4−Section 6 of the Intentioneers Series • See chapter list at end of article
Affirming the importance of sharing wealth as well as labor between women and men, the definition of “cofamily” would be, “three-to-nine unrelated adults affirming a common identity or affinity, while sharing privately-owned property with labor-gifting (i.e., collective community), or sharing commonly-owned property with labor-sharing (i.e., communal society).” The focus upon a common affinity is the “spirited” ideal, and the processes of labor-gifting and labor-sharing provide for the “joyous” feeling of people working together for mutual benefit.
Cofamily community could serve to take sharing and cooperation as an economic process the next step into the mainstream culture as a communitarian movement beyond the cohousing movement, further supporting the reversal of our cultural emphasis upon possessiveness and competition through the practices of gifting and sharing in small affinity groups.
By adding a focus upon sharing privately-owned or commonly-owned property to one of the most basic and most expensive needs, specifically housing, the dominant or mainstream culture may gradually be changed to an appreciation of sharing in community, which has already begun with cohousing more than with any other community movement since the earliest housing co-operatives. As cohousing becomes ever more mainstream, this growing movement can provide opportunities for other forms of community to advance the practice of gifting and sharing in general, and intentional community in particular.
The emphasis upon cultural and social affinities in cofamily communities results in complexities which must also be addressed, in these cases through the study and application of interpersonal and group processes. (For examples of group processes see: “Light and Shadows: Interpersonal and Group Process in the Sharing Lifestyle” by the present author, at: http://www.culturemagic.org/Intentioneering.html)
The potential for communitarian answers to the needs of people in the dominant culture is seen in studies such as those of the U.S. Census Bureau and of the Pew Research Center. These studies of the American family show that the “American Dream” of the happy nuclear family is not working for many people. The statistics can be interpreted to present the case for community, or at least some form of collective family that does not rely upon marriage and biology only, instead a type of family that emphasizes adults’ commitment to the domestic living group or community they create.
For general background, first consider that for all households, including single-parents, the average number of family members dropped from about 3.3 people in 1967 to about 2.6 people in 2014. (“America’s Families and Living Arrangements: 2015” at http://www.census.gov/hhes/families/data/adults.html, figures: AD-3a, HH-6)
Further, the 2015 Census Bureau statistics show that:
1. The number of married-adult households has been steadily dropping to now about half of all households. (“America’s Families and Living Arrangements: 2015” at http://www.census.gov/hhes/families/data/adults.html, figures: AD-3a, HH-6)
2. The number of adults living alone is now over a third of all households. (www.census.gov/hhes/families/data/households.html, figures: HH-4, HH-7b)
3. The number of children living in single-parent households increased to over a quarter of all the children in America, and half of those live in poverty. (“America’s Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being: 2015” at http://www.childstats.gov/americaschildren/family1.asp; see also http://www.census.gov/hhes/families/data/children.html, figure CH-1)
4. Over a third of all women with more than one child had them with more than one father, called “multiple-partner fertility.” (“America’s Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being: 2015” at
http://www.childstats.gov/americaschildren/family1.asp; Guzzo, 2014; Logan, Manlove, Ikramullah, & Cottingham, 2006; Martin, 2011)
From these statistics it is clear that the nuclear family is not working for a large number of Americans. Therefore, it is becoming increasingly helpful to recognize another form of family which better reflects America’s changing demographics and lifestyle choices, named by the current author the “cofamily.”
While cultural conservatives continue to emphasize the nuclear family, cultural progressives recognize the need for adults (more so than government) to support single women who become pregnant in keeping their children rather than getting an abortion, and in supporting those single-parents as their children are growing up. For those for whom the nuclear family ideal has failed, the cofamily is a solution.
Non-nuclear families, involving three-to-nine adults forming cooperative, collective, or communal families obviously needs a name to distinguish these small communities from nuclear families, and so the term “cofamily” was coined for whatever relationships may develop within the group, and for however those relationships may change over time.
While the traditional nuclear family will never go away, extensions of it have always existed. The term “extended-family” means including other family members, like aunts, cousins, grandparents, or grandchildren of the nuclear family in the same household, and so the idea of more than two adults in mutual aid is neither new nor untested. More and more, however, particularly as the population continues to polarize between liberal and conservative factions, the desire and need is to include with the biological family other non-biologically-related adults, especially if they also have children, for two reasons. One is in order for parents to be able to help each other with childcare and other domestic labor, and the second reason is for people to be able to live with others of like mind. These “affinity-families” create intentional communities rather than extended-families, and since the biological and marriage ties are less emphasized, something else has to provide the glue or the rationalization for people to practice small-group mutual aid, which usually means finding common interests, values, or goals. These are the affinities among people important to the creation and maintenance of community.
With the conservative, religious-right defining the ideal family model as being the supposedly God-sanctioned nuclear design of father, mother, and children, a different term is needed for affinity-based families which can be comprised of any number of adults of either gender, with or without children. For this the term “cofamily” is offered. (See: book IX, chapter 9, “Communitarian Mysticism,” Section 1 “Family Lifestyles Over the Ages: Matriarchy, Patriarchy, and Partnership”)
The term “cofamily” has an obvious connection with the term “cohousing,” while the meanings are very different. The Cohousing Association of the U.S.A. has a very limited definition for the term “cohousing,” with six specific criteria to which a cohousing community is expected to adhere. Many groups calling themselves “cohousing” do not follow all of these criteria, and so a different name is needed for their type of community. Essentially, any small group of people less than ten whose community does not fit the classic cohousing model (explained on the cohousing.org website) can instead call themselves a “cofamily community,” or simply a “cofamily,” while ten or more adults in community can use the term “intentional community.” An “intentional community” is defined as comprising three or more adults, yet for small groups the “cofamily” name suggests a more intimate lifestyle. In fact some people actually leave cohousing community in order to find a more intimate form of community, which requires a smaller group of people.
Setting the number of people in a cofamily community of three-to-nine is not entirely arbitrary, as first there has to be a minimum number of people for comprising a community, and second, a maximum number is necessary for respecting the intimate nature of a communitarian family.
The idea of limiting the cofamily community model to less than ten adults is suggested by psychologists who affirm that seven or eight adults is the optimum size for intense small-group communication, because that is generally the maximum number of different thoughts that the human brain can keep present in mind at one time. The military commonly uses this number of individuals for its squads or service units, from air force to infantry, and consensus process facilitators typically break out large plenary groups into seven or eight-person small-groups for discussing complicated issues.
The best number of people to live together in community is probably specific to each group of people, their individual emotional constitutions, the visions they articulate and share, the material aspects of their location, the resources they have available, and the gifting and sharing processes they develop. Optimum numbers of members can be found for different types of communities, and for each there are different cultural and historical factors involved.
The paleo-anthropologist Richard Leakey in his 1978 book with Roger Lewin titled “People of the Lake: Mankind and its Beginnings” gives the number 25 as the optimum size for the “gatherer-hunter economy,” and of 500 for the “dialectical tribe.” Along with the birth interval of a maximum of one child every four years for women, due to the difficulty of nursing and childcare in the wild, these numbers are specific to the subsistence, nomadic culture. (Leakey & Lewin, p. 111)
“Dunbar’s Number” is another perspective on the optimum number of people for a clan, small tribe, or neo-tribal intentional community. The British anthropologist Robin Dunbar suggests that an individual can reasonably keep track in one’s mind of around 150 people. This, writes Dunbar, is the number of people “with whom a stable inter-personal relationship can be maintained.” (Robin Dunbar, quoted in Ryan & Jethá, p. 171)
The communal Hutterite Colonies in the plains states and provinces typically grow to 100 or 150 adults plus children then split into two communities of more-or-less equal size, both of which continue the grow-split cycle. (Oved, p. 351) As of about 1997 there were about 400 Hutterite Colonies with about 40,000 people. (Pitzer, p. 8)
In contrast, some of the Israeli kibbutzim have around 1,000 members each, although it is unclear how many of them are still communal. In the “Encyclopedia of Community” Daniel Gavron reports that, “Some kibbutzim have joined together in a movement called the Communal Stream, in an attempt to preserve and protect traditional ways. This movement includes about a dozen veteran kibbutzim and a similar number of new urban communes and experimental settlements, …” However, Ben Hartman reported a somewhat larger number of kibbutzim in a January 25, 2010 “Jerusalem Post” article titled, “Only 25% of Kibbutzim Still Adhere to Collective Model.” Whatever is the exact number, a substantial fraction of kibbutzim are resisting the trend toward privatization of their communal economies, particularly refusing the paying of differential wages for different types of work, which is the red line between communalism and individualism. (Gavron, p. 727; Hartman, 2010)
As of 2008 the Kibbutz movement had a population of about 106,000 people in 256 kibbutzim with varying degrees of economic sharing. (See: http://www.kibbutz.org.il/eng/welcome.htm) This averages to around 400 members per kibbutz, although the most common size would be 200 to 300. The kibbutz movement is now growing with people moving into the newly privatized communities, and with the recent trend of new urban kibbutzim being founded involving about an additional 100 communities in Israel. (See: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kibbutz)
In “Cohousing: A Contemporary Approach to Housing Ourselves” the authors Kathryn McCamant and Charles Durrett state that in Europe cohousing communities with more than “40 dwellings have been divided into smaller clusters.” They also quote cohousing residents as saying that just over 60 adults is ideal so that teams of two adults each only have to cook the common evening meal for the community once a month. This size community is also small enough to practice direct democracy in community meetings. (McCamant & Durrett, pp. 159-61)
There appears to be no particular population size that can definitively be said to be the best for community, whether religious or secular, communal or collective. While the larger communities get all the attention, small communities of from three-to-nine adults are often overlooked, although they account for 40% of the listings for communities of three or more adults in the 2010 “Communities Directory.”
Taking the idea of intimacy in community to its logical end is what is known today as “polyamory,” involving intimate relationships between more than two adults, such as a triad (three adults) or a quad (two couples), or even more than four adults of either gender. While “polyandry” involves one female and two or more males in an intimate relationship, and “polygyny” involves the opposite, polyamory simply makes no reference to gender in multiple intimate relationships.
As practiced today, polyamorous relationships involve the “full knowledge and free consent of everyone involved.” Such relationships may change over time, while the partners in a stable “multiple-marriage” or “polyfidelity” relationship may all live together in the same residence. Polyamory existed in many ancient tribal cultures like the Celts, and it exists today around the world. (See: wikipedia.org/wiki/polyamory)
With same-gender marriage now legal in the United States, polyamory may become the next lifestyle pattern to become commonly accepted. When polyamory involves three or more adults living together a form of intentional community results. While other forms of intentional community may involve only monogamous relationships, or serial monogamy as a succession of marriages and divorces, or even celibacy in monastic society, polyamory assumes the presence of at least three adults in close relationship.
People in community together create the culture in which they want to live. However much they may deviate from the cultural assumptions presumed to be of the dominant culture, the essential value of the neo-tribal aspect of intentional community is the mutual support among a group of people for their chosen lifestyle.
While the term “cofamily” is not yet an established term for small communities, the need to focus upon the development of small communities is seen in the fact that they comprise at least 40% of the communities directories. This need to concentrate upon developing an identity or tradition for small intentional communities may result in the “cofamily” becoming the first new intentional community movement of the 21st century!
Previous books in the Intentioneers Series by A. Allen Butcher:
The Intentioneer’s Bible
Interwoven Stories of the Parallel Cultures of Plenty and Scarcity
I The Book of Ideals
II Egalitarianism in the Ancient World
III Egalitarianism in the Early Christian Era
IV Egalitarianism in Secular and Tribal Culture
V Communitarianism in the 19th Century
VI Communitarianism in the 20th Century
VII Intentioneering the 21st Century
VIII The Book of Intuitions
The Intentioneer’s Bible is available in ebook format at Amazon.com • Published May, 2016
Forthcoming book in the Intentioneers Series, for which “Cofamily” is a chapter:
Intentioneers and Illuminati
Interweaving the Parallel Cultures of Plenty and Scarcity
via Myth, Allegory, Reason, and Mysticism
[IX:4-1 = Book:Chapter-Section]
IX:1 The Love of Gifting and Sharing is the Root of Happiness!
IX:2 The Fellowship of Intentioneers and the Lord of Currencies
IX:3 Answers to the Anguish of the Ages
IX:4 Cofamily: Raising Children in Community
IX:5 Class Harmony: 2027 Socialism Bi-Centennial
IX:6 Correspondences of the Fellowship Allegory to the Real World
IX:7 Parallel Cultures: The Fourth World’s Plenty Economics in the First World’s Scarcity Economy
IX:8 Economics of the Golden Rule
IX:9 Communitarian Mysticism
A. Allen Butcher, The School of Intentioneering, Denver, CO, Nov., 2016
In times like these, with a solidly Republican national government resulting from the 2016 presidential election, plus more state governments turning Republican, it is clear that advancing and even holding steady on progressive causes in America is soon to become much more difficult. During times like these, with protests in the streets against a new president who is not yet in power, many people begin looking for alternatives. Talk about moving out of the country suggests that Canada might be a viable destination, except that American citizens cannot get jobs there, so only the well-off can pull-off that rescue. Meanwhile, to many others, times like these result in the American counterculture entering a new period of enthusiasm, growth, and influence in the dominant culture. Welcome to the sixth resurgence of the Fourth World, the American counterculture existing within the dominant First World culture!
Accompanying this article is a graphic intended to represent the political-economic theory of the parallel cultures of the First and Fourth Worlds. Use of the Taoist Taijitu or “yin-yang” symbol to diagram the two opposing yet intertwined economic systems of taking and exchanging versus gifting and sharing serves to emphasize the interdependence of debt-based monetary and non-monetary time-based economic systems. Both are needed, and while the monetary system gets most of the attention in the First World, the time-based economies at the level of the family and community nurtures children and adults through unpaid household labor for engagement in the dominant culture’s monetary system. The processes of mutual aid in the family and community represented by the rainbow rings, show how people are able to push the monetary system out of our lives, to various degrees. Each of the rainbow rings is labeled with a different communitarian value or structure, of which “rational altruism” and “communal society” are the most successful in creating the non-monetary, parallel culture.
The use of the term “parallel cultures” emphasizes the concept of two symbiotic cultures in a dynamic system, much like the concept of “opposites attract.” Emphasizing the synergistic aspects of opposing economic paradigms serves to retire the Marxist communist concept that someday the counterculture of solidarity, called by Marxists the “dictatorship of the proletariat,” will replace the dominant culture’s drive toward the dictatorship of the plutocracy. While progressive causes are on a long trajectory toward parity with the conservative paradigm, replacing one paradigm entirely with its opposite only replaces one form of extremism with another, when the goal of economic stability and sustainability requires a balance of opposing paradigms.
It is partly to refuse Marxist communist theory and to distance the Fourth World from it that The School of Intentioneering was created to advocate the use of new terminology like “intentioneering” in place of the term “communitarianism,” and to develop theories on balancing the opposing paradigms in the concept of “parallel cultures.” The School of Intentioneering advocates the replacement of both Marxist authoritarianism and anarchist anti-statism with advocacy for the local self-determination of gifting and sharing cultures for reducing their reliance upon or exposure to monetary economics, within a global culture dominated by the monetary economic system. In response to the Marxist concepts of “scientific socialism” versus “utopian socialism,” The School of Intentioneering offers a history of the rise of civilization emphasizing that the counterculture exists in parallel with the dominant culture, the two learning from and benefiting from each other over time toward a form of human civilization that will hopefully be more stable and sustainable. This new history and future projections was published in May, 2016 with the title The Intentioneer’s Bible, currently available only in digital format on Amazon.com.
While there are many terms in use for representing the two political-economic systems of the dominant and the alternative cultures, the most explanatory are “First World” and “Fourth World.” The political-economic term “First World” refers to market-based economies, while the “Second World” are state-controlled economies found in communist countries. The familiar “Third World” are the countries developing toward one of the first two, while the “Fourth World” are small countries or subcultures within any of the first three that are happy with their locally-controlled political-economic forms and are not trying to become like any of the other three.
Along with the various forms of intentional community and many other cultural alternatives, the Fourth World includes indigenous cultures refusing assimilation by the dominant, First World culture. There is a natural affinity between tribal cultures everywhere in the world with the counterculture, as both seek to be outside of the dominant culture’s monetary greed and avarice. Native Americans and those who deliberately leave the dominant First World culture for the Fourth World are therefore natural allies, as can be seen during periodic times of collaboration between the two, such as what is happening in North Dakota with the Seven Council Fires of the Sioux inviting its Fourth World allies to aid its blockade of an oil pipeline.
Many of us in America’s counterculture or parallel culture have understood that times of progress toward economic justice and a more complete political enfranchisement comes and goes in cycles. For many of us in the intentional communities wing of the counterculture, formerly called “communitarians,” now named by the present author “intentioneers,” much of our work has been pursued with the thought that gifting and sharing in community is the answer to most if not all of the world’s problems. We watched the cooling of American radicalism of the 1960s and ‘70s become the ‘80s “Big Chill,” knowing that eventually the course of human events would bring another time of tribulations, and the response of popular organizing for local self-reliance, sharing, and solidarity.
While some progressive changes have occurred since the 1970s, such as legal marijuana, same-gender marriage, and women training for combat in the military, many problems remain and have become worse. We knew at the time of the first Earth Day in 1970 that the increasing human population growth-rate on the planet is not sustainable, that we were entering a time of species extinction, and that a host of problems would result from global warming, a view that has finally been generally accepted.
In the early 1970s President Nixon ended the gold standard to base our currency upon government fiat, resulting in the only backing of the currency being Federal Reserve promises to maintain our monetary system. Changing to fiat money was actually proposed by the Texas state Farmers Alliance meeting of 1886, since adherence to the gold standard made it difficult for farmers to obtain financing for annual planting when the country’s economy was still largely agricultural. The gold standard prevented expansion of the money supply when farmers needed it, so they advocated government fiat money instead. Of course, there are problems with any monetary system, and fiat money, along with the financialization of the economy, has become ever more difficult to manage as seen with the 2007-8 Great Recession and the rescue called “quantitative easing,” which is probably helping to set up the economy for the next great fall. (See: The Intentioneer’s Bible, book VI, chapter 9, “National Banks, the Gold Standard, and Fiat Money;” book VII, chapter 2, “Casino Capitalism and the Great Recession;” and book VII, chapter 6, “The Return of Casino Capitalism”)
Anticipating an eventual return of hard times, many people in the communities movement, that is, many intentioneers, have focused upon developing resources through the last four decades or so to help others find and build community for themselves, their family and friends. Now after the economic disaster of the Great Recession and the political reversal of the Republican wins of 2016, the intentional communities wing of the American counterculture is ready to support people in building locally the kind of lifestyle that many people most want to enjoy—the communitarian culture of gifting and sharing!
There are now several different models for how people can live in peace and harmony through mutual aid, pushing the monetary system out of our lives through adopting alternative economic systems of gifting and sharing. These models include the various types of intentional community with which many people may already be familiar, specifically: housing cooperatives, cohousing, and other forms of collectivism sharing privately-owned property with labor-gifting; monastery, ashram, egalitarian society, and other forms of communalism sharing commonly-owned property with labor-sharing; and mixtures of common and of private property in the community land trust and other economically-diverse communities, such as those having a communal core-group from whom the non-communal members of the community rent their living space. In addition there are also forms of intentional community that can have any kind of structure, whether collective, communal, or economically-diverse. These are ecovillages, which are any size group of people living together with ecological sustainability as their primary commonality, and cofamilies, which are small groups of three-to-nine people who may adopt any type of gifting or sharing system with or without agreement on a common affinity or a formal political-economic structure. Ecovillages and cofamilies may be happy to carry on with no formal structure for their small group, or may be on their way to becoming one of the more specific political-economic models of intentional community listed above.
For most people the idea of living in a culture that replaces monetary economics with time-based gifting and sharing processes is not just radical, it is incomprehensible! Yet basing a culture upon the ideals of the Golden Rule is neither foreign nor heretical. America was founded by people wanting to build something different from what they had experienced in the Old World, and they found models of participatory governance in practice among the indigenous peoples of the Americas, which were copied for use in our American Constitution and in other aspects of our form of governance. At the same time, the lessons of the European Protestant Reformation were also written into our constitution, with the idea of “individual election” affirming that people must be able to choose their own religion, transitioning into governance and politics with the concept of “one person, one vote.”
There have been five prior waves of communitarian enthusiasm in North America, with the first beginning in the 1600s and 1700s involving Protestant religious groups including the German/Swiss Pietists and English Separatists. The second wave landed in the 1840s with both religious and non-religious communities such as the Anarchist Socialist, Associationist, Christian Socialist, Mutualist Cooperative, Owenites, Icarians, and Perfectionsts. The third wave of New World communitarianism crested in the 1890s after a succession of economic recessions or short depressions, fifty years after the second wave. The Hutterites, Mennonites and Amish had begun arriving in the 1870s, and the ’90s saw many other religious, socialist, and anarchist communities, and the first New Towns and Georgist single-tax colonies. The fourth wave came forty years later with the Great Depression of the 1930s and the New Deal government-sponsored Green Belt towns, the Catholic Worker, and the first Emissary communities. The fifth wave hit in the 1960s and ’70s as a massive Baby-Boom-inspired cultural revolution, this time just thirty years later. The sixth wave has broken the pattern of ever shortening interludes between movements, with this current resurgence beginning forty years later. For details on these historical communitarian movements see the Amazon ebook by the present author titled: The Intentioneer’s Bible.
The American intentional communities movement, and probably those in Europe and elsewhere, began its resurgence after the Great Recession of 2007-8, although aspects of it began decades earlier. There are at least six developments contributing to this resurgence:
First, the Fellowship for Intentional Community was reorganized in 1986 from an association begun in America in the late 1940s, after the Second World War. The reformed Fellowship began to make a range of information resources available to people about intentional community, including topics such as legal incorporation and participatory governance, through a magazine, videos, conferences, and a directory of communities which has continually increased its listings with each successive Communities Directory. [See Communities magazine and Directory at: http://www.ic.org]
Second, the Cohousing Association of the U.S. recently announced a “500 Communities” project, involving the training of developers, architects, builders, bankers and other financiers in the values, procedures and design parameters for creating a specific form of intentional community, which they often call the “intentional neighborhood.” This is very exciting as it shows that all of the functions of standard real estate development can and are working for the counterculture! The cohousing wing of the counterculture in some cases even uses gentrification in replacing the ongoing loss of older circumstantial neighborhood communities with intentional community. Much of the 500 Communities initiative involves an emphasis upon senior cohousing, in addition to the original focus of cohousing upon creating safe and nurturing community for children in inter-generational communities.
Third, the communal network called the Federation of Egalitarian Community’s (FEC) is engaged in a project of seeding new urban communal groups in East Coast cities. This has resulted in the March, 2016 FEC Assembly admitting more new communities at one meeting than ever before, nearly doubling the number of FEC-identified communities. Of course the new groups are much smaller than the established communities. While the Federation’s track record for helping new communities survive is not good, the FEC is able to do more now to help new communities than it could in the past due to its continued growth.
Fourth, the worker-ownership movement is finally getting some traction. Although worker-owned businesses are not intentional communities, those communities that do have businesses often set them up as worker-owned co-ops. Most sources state that there were only 300 worker-owned businesses known in the U.S. until recently. The group that is doing the most for worker-ownership now seems to be “The Democracy Collaborative” and their “Next System Project.” They are doing great things, such as helping the Lakota Sioux tribe to create worker-owned businesses in the Dakotas, and working along with the United Steel Workers union to create worker-ownership in America’s rust-belt cities similar to the Mondragon cooperative network in northern Spain. Then there is also the Solidarity Economy movement’s focus upon worker-ownership, which is stronger in Latin America, Canada, and Europe and elsewhere than it is in America. Worker-ownership is part of many collective intentional communities, although in communal society the appropriate term for it is “community-ownership.”
Fifth, the ecovillage movement appears to be continually growing around the world. While the various ecovillage network websites do not seem to keep track of the number of ecovillages in existence, the Fellowship for Intentional Community reported in its 2010 Directory that the number of communities that adopted the identity of “ecovillage” increased from seven percent in the 2007 Directory to 32 percent in the 2010 Directory (page 12). Much of this increase, however, could be coming from existing intentional communities adopting the ecovillage identity, rather than from new ecovillages being formed.
Sixth, “New Monasticism” seems to be inspiring a new Christian community movement, now becoming noticeably active after its beginnings in the 1980s. The Twelve Tribes or Messianic communities continue to found a few additional Yellow Cafes around the country, including back where they began in Chattanooga, Tennessee, although like most communal societies they are finding it difficult to keep their children in community once they reach adulthood. The ChristianLivingCommunities.org website shows that Christians are organizing communities in different parts of the country to help support aging Christians. This is similar to how the ageinplace.org website advocates “intentional neighboring” through inter-generational communities supporting young and old practicing “reciprocal support.” [Note: appreciations to Prof. Timothy Miller of the Univ. of Kansas for some of this Christian community material.]
One of the unique aspects of this sixth resurgence of communitarianism is that unlike any before there is now a form of intentional community created specifically for the older, Baby Boom generation. While inter-generational communities are sometimes called “intentional neighborhoods,” for older adults there is “senior cohousing.” Developing independently from cohousing, community for the aged is being supported by some non-profit, affordable housing organizations using names like “Elder Spirit,” “Elder Shire,” and “Village to Village.”
And for young adults desiring a community in which to raise children, who may not be able to afford middle-class cohousing community, there is the term offered by the current author: “cofamily.” Cofamily community is a take-off from “cohousing,” with cofamily being everything that cohousing is not, particularly the design of having an overt, shared spiritual, religious, ethnic, cultural, or other identity among a small number of people. A cofamily is comprised of three-to-nine unrelated adults, with or without children. In some cases a cofamily may be specifically created to support single-parents and their child or children, as a way for friends to support single women having children who may otherwise choose abortion. When raising children in community is the reason for the community, the cofamily may disband once the children reach adulthood.
There are many roles that communitarian movements play, usually arising to address some anguish of the age, often the result of natural catastrophes, at times caused by foreign influences, and sometimes caused by the dominant culture oppressing its counterculture. In response, communitarianism, renamed by the present author “intentioneering,” is the peaceful way to create change. This is an historical tradition that addresses many of the same anti-dominant-culture sentiments that some religious fundamentalists are expressing, yet in the communities movement this is done peacefully.
The communitarian movement can have a voice in many of the issues of these times, because as a gifting and sharing world-view supporting a cooperative cultural paradigm, intentional communities have a distinctly unique perspective. Being more publicly vocal with what the contemporary communities movements have to offer to the dominant culture would include an initiative designed to help steer youth away from violent ideologies to a peaceful, caring, and nurturing lifestyle. One method for bringing people from hateful and murderous ideologies to communitarianism is to place an emphasis upon the gifting and sharing of things, including labor as well as money or income. Non-monetary economics involves using time-based economics in place of monetary economics, and for many people just knowing that they have the option to live such a lifestyle, without violence, can be inspirational!
This announcement of the rising sixth wave of the parallel or counterculture begins a series of articles to be published in a book sometime in 2017, to be titled Intentioneers and Illuminati. This forthcoming book is based upon, and offers theories and analysis derived from, the 2016 book The Intentioneer’s Bible, both by the present author. The next several articles will present the idea of the “cofamily,” followed by articles on the coming 2027 bi-centennial of the anti-Marxist concept of class harmony called “socialism.” These will be followed by additional articles on topics including the “Fellowship Allegory,” “Economics of the Golden Rule,” and “Communitarian Mysticism.” All will be posted with The School of Intentioneering’s graphic representing Parallel Cultures.
When I was in high school and then in college (the first time), trying to figure out what to do with my life, I decided that I wanted to learn how people can live in cooperation, since I perceived that so many problems seemed to come from the competitive nature of the dominant culture and its monetary economics.
So I went to the largest university in my state thinking that there must be something covering my field of interest, yet I found that no one taught classes in cooperative culture. Decades later I found that some small liberal arts colleges in my state and elsewhere did approach the issue in the 1970s, and some state universities have developed somewhat of a communitarian focus since.
Being frustrated in college (I took more philosophy courses than anything else, yet what could I do with a philosophy degree?), I decided that I would go where ever people were living in cooperation and learn what I thought was important on my own. I began researching and traveling the country looking for the most exciting communitarian project to join. Eventually I settled upon East Wind Community in the Ozark Mountains, in a rather remote location where during the 1970s and ‘80s I agreed with the REO Speedwagon lyrics that we were, “Not missing a thing. Watching the full moon crossing the range. Riding the storm out!” However, East Wind did not turn out to be quite what I or others there at the time hoped it would be. Yet East Wind has survived now over 40 years, which shows that we did learn something about cooperation!
Decades later I am again looking for the most exciting communitarian project in the country.
My focus on the issue of human cooperation has led me to a few realizations about communitarian culture which is now helping me to identify the most exciting communitarian project of the twenty-teens. While I will not go into all of that now, I will refer readers to a book which I began writing at East Wind in 1980, now recently published.
As I found that there was no really good textbook on communitarianism I decided to write one, which I’ve now recently published, some 36 years later. I have now for sale the best textbook available on the subject of communitarianism, although it is not yet in the most usable form, as it needs an index and to be printed on paper, yet for now it is available as an Amazon ebook titled: “The Intentioneers Bible.”
Since I now have the textbook, eventually to become an online course, I am beginning to develop my work into an educational project which I am calling “The School of Intentioneering,” with programs to be developed such as the “Utopia Writers Guild,” “Cofamily,” “Partnership Spirituality,” and the “Regional Commonwealth.”
The latter of the four projects mentioned above is my current template for “the most exciting communitarian project in America,” which is a local group of intentional communities working together as a decentralized network in a given locality. This is actually an old idea, going back centuries and maybe even millennia, so it is nothing new, and there are several such local networks around America. Some of them are comprised of groups of cohousing communities in a given area, some are collective or householder communities around a spiritual center or monastic society, and some are of different types of intentional communities in a given area, whether collective, communal, or economically diverse. Someone could write a book on that topic, however, for now I’ll jump to the conclusion and say that I think that the most exciting communitarian project in America is the group of mostly communal intentional communities around Twin Oaks Community in central Virginia!
I am now in the process of divesting myself from the hot real estate market in Denver, Colorado to invest whatever I can in a Virginia community. However, real estate in rural central Virginia is not cheap, as shown in the graphic accompanying this article. $8,000 per acre for undeveloped land can be called an inflated market! My current plan is to get myself to Virginia and look around for what is available with the proceeds from whatever I can get for my house in the city.
I hope to find others with whom to invest in land for a new communal, income-sharing community to be part of the network around Twin Oaks Community. Of course, this is just an idea at the moment, yet for a timeline I hope to be able to purchase a property before the end of 2016, depending upon what is available.
I am hoping to develop my writing and educational efforts into an income source for an income-sharing community. I am therefore hoping to find writers, graphic artists, educators, or other communitarians with whom to collaborate to create both a community and an educational project about community.
If you are interested in being part of “the most exciting communitarian project in America,” please get in touch!
A. Allen Butcher • Utopia Writers Guild • School of Intentioneering • Denver, CO • July 2016
Each of us sees things that others cannot, or have not yet. So the challenge is to interest others in and to teach what we see through our personal, unique perspectives of the past, present, and future. Utopian literature provides methods for presenting ideas about alternatives to the dominant culture and projections of positive futures. To encourage people to share such perspectives and projections a project of the School of Intentioneering is to inspire and support a “Utopia Writers Guild.”
To support writers of positive or idealistic societies and to counter the influence of the dystopian paradigm, where what we always see is DE-ATH, or “Done Everything—Away To Heaven,” it would be helpful to have a support group that will encourage and review the work of those who write with a positive utopian theme. The Guild is intended to celebrate writings about idealistic societies, whether real or fictional, supporting the ambition to LIVE FREE in communities where what we see is that “Labor Is Valued Equally, For Realizing Economic Equality.”
Valuing all labor equally involves the use of labor systems in place of wages and salaries, which pushes monetary economics out of communal societies. Yet not all utopian writings involve communalism, some develop the idea of a perfect monetary system that supports tribal or neo-tribal cultures while safeguarding the environment rather than destroying it. And that is clearly an utopian ideal!
The Utopia Writers Guild is an initiative of the School of Intentioneering intended to support writings on the differences, similarities and interdependence of the dominant culture or First World with the alternative or parallel culture of the Fourth World. As there are many such differences and similarities, the Guild is developing programs to focus upon contemporary, historical, and fictional countercultural traditions. The primary resource for this work is “The Intentioneer’s Bible,” which includes the themes of: tribalism and neo-tribalism; the rise and development of monetary economics; women’s spirituality and aspects of feminism that value the partnership of women and men; worker and consumer cooperation; and the many forms of intentional community including ecovillages, community land trusts, cohousing, cofamilies, cooperatives, and communalism.
The mission of the School of Intentioneering is to teach people about Fourth World communitarian or intentional community traditions in relation to the dominant market-based culture of the First World. The First and Fourth Worlds are parallel cultures, both moving apace with the other through time. While at times the differences between the two are expressed in conflict, each culture often learns from and adapts aspects of the other.
One of the primary dichotomies between the Fourth and First Worlds is how each compensates labor. While the dominant culture uses differential wages, paying differing amounts for various types of work in a debt-based economy, the parallel culture values all labor equally through time-based economies using labor-gifting and labor-sharing. This is the red line between monetary economies and communal economies. Rather than paying money, communal society compensates labor through member’s access to the wealth of communal services. This difference does not exist in all of the Fourth World as sharing privately-owned property is more prevalent than sharing commonly-owned property in the counterculture, yet it makes a very clear line of division between the two primary economic and cultural paradigms. These reflect the two cultural values of competition and exploitation, and of cooperation and mutual aid; the two of which usually avoiding destructive conflict by emphasizing their interdependence.
While any other inequality may exist, the feeling that “we are all in this together” is maintained in the Fourth World as long as everyone benefits either according to their personal needs or in the same way as everyone else in the society. In the Fourth World this is done through forms of time-based economies of gifting and sharing, while in the dominant First World the monetary system accommodates ever greater disparities in wealth among people. The monetary economic system of the dominant culture provides for differential compensation for labor, resulting in everyone being in the monetary system for themselves.
The dominant culture has its spokes persons and media outlets, which the parallel culture needs as well. To provide for this the School of Intentioneering is both a school-of-thought and an educational organization teaching gifting and sharing partnership culture in the competitive, dominant society. For teaching Fourth World lifestyles the School of Intentioneering provides two online books. The first is free for download in two-dozen PDF files at: CultureMagic.org The second is not free and is currently only available as an ebook at: Amazon.com
The book “Culture Magic” covers almost every aspect of communitarianism except childcare, a topic which is being developed for a future work. However, the material in “Culture Magic” on the history of communitarianism has been greatly expanded into the new thousand-page book, “The Intentioneer’s Bible.”
“The Intentioneer’s Bible: Interwoven Stories of the Parallel Cultures of Plenty and Scarcity” is an alternative history of civilization, presenting how the dominant and the alternative cultures have developed apace through time, beginning in our prehistory through to today, with the final section of the book being projections of the future. To support the use of “The Intentioneer’s Bible” as a textbook for an online class, scripts for videos can be written, produced, and shared on YouTube. Beyond that, scripts for full-length movies based on various stories found in “The Intentioneer’s Bible” can be written, with these writers becoming part of a Utopia Writers Guild.
The School of Intentioneering serves to teach people about alternatives to the dominant culture. The two online books currently available in the Intentioneer’s series present alternatives to the dominant culture of Western Civilization including: an economic system based upon time rather than debt for creating gifting and sharing economies; a political system affirming that the primary dichotomy is between participatory and authoritarian forms of governance as a more definitive method for emphasizing individual sovereignty than the usual liberal versus conservative dichotomy; and a religious tradition emphasizing partnership between women and men rather than patriarchy. With alternatives developed for the three primary cultural aspects of economics, politics, and religion, the focus can then be upon writings that present and discuss the issues of children and family in community, which will begin development with a project of the School of Intentioneering called “cofamily.” Cofamily may be seen to become the first new intentional community movement of the 21st century.
The problems and challenges in the world today are easy to learn about in the mass media, and sometimes simply by looking outside one’s door. Solutions also seem to be easy to find; just figure out for whom to vote, then go back to sleep.
However, trying to figure out what are the causes, meanings, and solutions for the problems we see can keep a person awake with the complexity, complications, frustrations, contradictions, and deliberate diversions from the truth that are everywhere. Yet many of our contemporary problems are not new, some of them never went away, while others keep getting worse. So if it helps, please keep in mind that people are living lifestyles today that have been found in the past to successfully aid people in surviving similar tribulations.
Many people through the past up to the present have found that an effective method for responding to the challenges of the day is to work, play, and live together in small, extended-family-like community. This seems to be a simple idea, given that for tens of thousands of years of our prehistory humans lived in small-groups, like clans and tribes, yet applying a cooperative lifestyle to our contemporary, competitive world can be a difficult challenge all its own. For this we need to know what successful communitarians have learned about living in community in the 21st century.
The problem, of course, is that we cannot see the future, and so it can be helpful to look to the past to identify trends, both in the progression of problems as well as in the evolution of the solutions. To help you with this the present author recently completed a very long book tracing and explaining the history of communitarianism through all of human civilization! Communitarianism is not a short story; it is actually comprised of many short stories, some of them very beautiful, others so dramatic they will tear your heart out. The book is titled, The Intentioneer’s Bible: Interwoven Stories of the Parallel Cultures of Plenty and Scarcity, available at $9.99 as an ebook on Amazon.com, which permits interested people to read for free the first 80 pages or so of the book.
While The Intentioneer’s Bible covers the history of communitarianism, and projects some of the paths through the future for building communitarian lifestyles, called “intentioneering,” there is another book that focuses upon detailed descriptions of the current communitarian movement. This is the Communities Directory, the seventh edition of which is to be available in July (discounted pre-sales are available for $30 at: http://www.ic.org). Further on in this article is a study of the communities movement using information published in earlier editions of the Communities Directory.
Considering relatively recent American history, with regard to increasingly difficult economic conditions, consider what Robert Reich and others have explained, that in the 1950s and ‘60s a person, usually a man, could get a job that paid enough to support a house-wife and a couple children, and stay with it his entire career. Then beginning in the 1970s this ideal began to fade. Wages stagnated while the cost of living rose, so much that the wife could no longer stay at home and had to also work in order to maintain a middle-class or even a working-class lifestyle.
Two-income, two-car families became the norm. Who then minded the children? First it was the television, now the Internet is the surrogate babysitter. Of course the best thing to do is to find other compatible families with whom to share childcare, and this is where intentional community comes into the story.
From reading the history in The Intentioneer’s Bible of the origins of the cohousing community movement in Denmark, one finds that a big reason for the design and growth of the cohousing movement was to create child-friendly communities for young families. It worked so well in Denmark that Americans began to apply the community design here around 1990. As shown in the study of the data from the Communities Directories (below), cohousing is now the fastest growing intentional communities movement in America! The same is probably true around the world.
Cohousing communities are also some of the largest new communities listed in the directories, and it is amazing to see how effectively the cohousing movement uses standard professional services for building community, including architects, builders, developers, lawyers, and bankers. Cohousing has done wonders for the communities movement, except that it is expensive to buy into a cohousing community. One has to have a middle-class income to be able to help create a new cohousing community, unless one can wait a few years until people want to move on and rent out their cohousing unit. Yet there must be a better way for lower-income people to also enjoy community for themselves and their children. Who is working on identifying that community option? Do we need a new communities movement that can help working-class people provide for themselves what the middle-class has created for itself? Creating working-class community should be easier now with the example of the success of cohousing community for the middle-class.
The trend seems to be clear. In the ‘50s and ‘60s one income-earner per family was enough, then from the ‘70s through the twenty-teens two income-earners per family have been needed. With housing and other price inflation continuing, now the American family needs more than two income-earners. Increasing the minimum wage certainly helps, yet how does the “American Dream” family, that patriarchal ideal of the nuclear family, add income earners? And if it manages to do so, is it still a “family?” Perhaps the need is to come up with a new form of family for responding to the challenges of the new millennia.
Three or more adults working and living together for mutual advantage is called an “intentional community.” Community, then, is the answer! People simply need to be aware of this lifestyle option, and need to learn what others know about creating small, extended-family-like communities, because many expect that the need will be escalating through the future. Consider the following demographics.
According to U.S. Census reports and other studies, half of all marriages end in divorce, one-third of all adults in America live alone, one-third of all women with more than one child had them with more than one man (called “multiple-partner fertility”), one-quarter of all children live in single-parent families, and half of those children live in poverty. These are the statistics on the American family, showing that the American Dream of the happy nuclear family is not working for many people. These statistics can be interpreted so as to present the case for community, or at least some form of collective family that does not rely only upon marriage and biology, instead a form of family that emphasizes adults’ commitment to the domestic living group or community they create. (See references at the end of this article: Guzzo, 2014; Logan, Manlove, Ikramullah, & Cottingham, 2006; Martin, 2011; U.S. Census reports)
While the traditional nuclear family will never go away, extensions of it have always existed. The term “extended-family” means including other family members, like aunts, cousins, grandparents, or grandchildren of the nuclear family in the same household. More and more, however, the desire and need is to include with the biological family other non-biologically-related adults, especially if they also have children, for two reasons. One is in order for parents to be able to help each other with childcare and other domestic labor, and the second reason is for people to be able to live with others of like mind. These “affinity-families” create intentional communities rather than extended-families, and since the biological and marriage ties are less emphasized, something else has to provide the glue or the rationalization for people to practice small-group mutual aid, which usually means finding common interests, values, or goals. These are the affinities among people important to the creation and maintenance of community.
With the conservative, religious-right defining the nature of the ideal or God-sanctioned “family” as being the nuclear design of father, mother, and children, a different term is needed for affinity-based families which can be comprised of any number of adults of either gender, with or without children. For this the term “cofamily” is offered.
The term “cofamily” has an obvious connection with the term “cohousing,” while the meanings are somewhat different. The Cohousing Association of the U.S.A. has a very limited definition for the term “cohousing,” with six specific criteria to which a cohousing community is expected to adhere. Many groups calling themselves “cohousing” do not follow all of these criteria, and so a different name is needed for their type of community. Essentially, any small group of people whose community does not fit the classic cohousing model (explained on the cohousing website and in The Intentioneer’s Bible) can instead call themselves a “cofamily community,” or simply a “cofamily.” Like with an extended family, a cofamily is typically comprised of fewer than ten adults, while ten or more adults can simply use the term “intentional community.” An intentional community is defined as three or more adults, yet for small groups the cofamily name suggests a more intimate lifestyle. In fact some people actually leave cohousing community in order to find a more intimate form of community, which requires a smaller group. Cofamilies of 3 to 9 adults can provide more intimacy in relationships than do large groups.
While the term “cofamily” is not yet an established term for small communities, the need for focusing upon the development of small communities is growing. Between the surveys made of the communities movement for the 1990 and the 2010 communities directories, the number of small communities of from 3 to 9 members grew by almost two-and-a-half times. This need to concentrate upon developing an identity or tradition for small intentional communities may result in cofamily becoming the first new intentional community movement of the 21st century.
The Communities Movement in America
In the 2010 Communities Directory published by the Fellowship for Intentional Community (FIC), the population total for American communities with more than 2 members is: 21,660 people. In the 1990 Directory of Intentional Communities that total is 8,054 people. So the increase in population in the communities movement (or at least its reported population) in those 20 years was 269%.
In the 2007 Communities Directory Laird Schaub, then the FIC’s executive director estimated that there is 100,000 people in the American intentional communities movement. The actual count of 21,660 people, or about one-fifth of the estimated total, is a reasonable representation for a movement that typically prefers to be quiet, unobtrusive, or hidden. The rest will have to be assumed, because we know that there are always more communitarians than are willing to be counted, or that even know about the larger movement!
Consider that excluded from this 100,000 population figure are the 11,000 or so Hutterites, a movement which started with 16th century Anabaptist Christians, now in the northern plains states, although most Hutterites live in Canada. Then there are also about 2,000 Christian Bruderhof members in America, a movement that started in the 1930s and affiliated with the Hutterites. While a few Hutterite and Bruderhof communities are listed in the FIC directory, most are not listed or counted. So we can estimate that there is somewhere around 13,000 Hutterite/Bruderhof members in America.
Add to that count the Catholic monasteries which alone comprise about 88,000 people. The best source for this number available to the present author is the 2014 article written for the Pew Research Center by Michael Lipka titled, U.S. Nuns Face Shrinking Numbers and Tensions with the Vatican. The term “nuns” is misleading as that term refers to the cloistered sisters insulated from worldly influences. The term “sisters” is the generic term including both cloistered nuns and other women religious living in convents and working in Catholic schools, hospitals, nursing homes and other worldly activities. In his article Lipka explains that the number of Catholic Sisters dropped precipitously from a population of about 180,000 women religious in 1965 to about 50,000 in 2014, a 72% drop in fifty years. This information was reported by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University.
The primary reason offered by a reader (Emmett Coyne) of Michael Lipka’s article for explaining the drop in the number of Catholic women in religious vocations, is that after 1965 women began to enjoy opportunities to have careers and lifestyles which they did not have earlier. Women had entered Catholic monasticism for the education and the opportunity to be leaders in their communities, and once that was possible in the dominant culture they lost interest in religious communalism. This says that for most Catholic Sisters, other than cloistered nuns, it was not about religion, or about having Jesus as their bride-groom, or about service to the community, instead the allure of Catholic monasticism for women was about getting out of the house!
Neither was Catholic monasticism more than nominally about celibacy, as a reader’s comment (by Fred Jones) on Lipka’s article states that a survey by researchers at St. Louis University commissioned by “several orders of Catholic nuns” found that 40% of all Catholic sisters report having experienced some form of sexual trauma “at the hands of priests and other nuns.” The report was not published, although it has been acquired by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Sexual harassment of women may be another reason why Catholic Sisters give up their vows, and it may help to explain why the drop in priests (women cannot be priests in Catholicism) is only half that of women during the same fifty years. Catholic Orders of women always have to be under the oversight of male priests.
Another important consideration offered by a reader of Lipka’s article (George Waite) is that there are now more Catholic Sisters over the age of 90 than there are Sisters under the age of 60. Interestingly, the same dynamic of most members leaving while the remaining members age and are not replaced by younger members was experienced by the Shakers.
The drop in male priests in the same fifty years between 1965 and 2014 was from about 59,000 to 38,000. This includes both diocesan priests or those who lead the Catholic community, and the religious priests who live in monasteries.
Adding together the 100,000 estimated non-Hutterite and non-Catholic-monastic communitarians with the 13,000 Hutterites/Bruderhofers and the 88,000 female and male Catholic monastics totals to a little over 200,000 people, or around a fifth-of-a-million people living in some form of intentional community in America. Again, a few small Catholic monasteries appear in the FIC directory, yet not many.
Since intentional communities involve gifting and sharing economies, partly to minimize use of monetary economics within their communities, like what many Native Americans practice on their reservations and elsewhere, the population of Indian Reservations may be included along with that of the communitarians. According to the USA Census Bureau, there are about 1,144,000 Native Americans on reservations. Add that to the fifth-of-a-million communitarians and we now have about one-and-a-third-million Americans (1,344,000) living at least partially outside of the dominant culture’s monetary system.
Since the population of the USA is somewhere around 324 million people, 1.3 million people in gifting and sharing societies equal less than half-of-one-percent (0.4%) of the American population. Although this is quite a small proportion of the population, it is very important to know that these alternatives to “business as usual” do exist, since whatever your background or proclivities, there is probably a community somewhere that you and your family would fit into. Or if not, you could always start your own gifting and sharing culture with like-minded people when you need or want more of a community than what you’ve got.
That 0.4% of America comprises the American portion of the “Fourth World,” while the dominant culture of the 99.6% of the American population comprises the American part of the “First World.” These are political-economic terms. The 1st World is the global system of neo-liberal market capitalism, while the 4th World may be defined partly as comprised of small, non-monetary economies based upon gifting and sharing in community. Small countries or “micro-states” are also included in the 4th World.
Keep in mind that while people are born into Native American Fourth World culture, most non-Indians who comprise the intentional communities movements, religious or secular, are born into the dominant, First World culture, and become Fourth World when they join or create intentional community, thus leaving the First World to create the counterculture or parallel culture.
For a little more perspective, consider that the total of active-duty and reservists in the American military is around 2 million people. Also consider that military personnel are engaged in a form of communalism, since everything they do and have is government property, which is a form of commonly-owned property. Military personnel do get paid, in the same way that some who live communally get a small allowance, although like some Wal-Mart workers, some military folks do not get paid enough to live on and so sometimes have to get food stamps and other welfare assistance. So actually, the military is something like an authoritarian intentional community (remember that Catholic monasticism had its military orders like the Teutonic Knights and the Hospitallers of St. John), yet a person can get too liberal with the use of the “intentional community” term, and so it is necessary to affirm that the military ought not to be considered to be part of the counterculture.
A way to think about the similarities between the military and the Fourth World, is that while we need a military for some important things in our culture, we also need a counterculture, or as I prefer to write, a Parallel Culture, because people always need to have a choice of lifestyles from which to choose. Youth, especially, needs an alternative to being part of the 1st World that they grew up in. Youths often look for a way out of the “Matrix,” and the Parallel Culture provides a peaceful option for that, as opposed to anti-social activities like becoming a criminal extremist, mass-murderer, or fanatical terrorist! So yes, we need an alternative culture in some ways as much as we need a military.
Another corollary is that in America there are about 2 million people incarcerated in our jails and prisons. This we do not need, and hopefully with the end of marijuana prohibition many of these non-violent people will be freed! What will they do when they get out once marijuana is legal? How will they fit into the dominant culture, and what is the chance that they will want to fit in? If they want or need an alternative to the dominant culture, they can be offered America’s 4th World communitarianism!
In some ways the 4th World is a “through the looking glass” world, an alternative culture that any of us can step into at any time to get at least part way out of the dominant culture. Some of us actually have figured out how to live in both worlds, with one foot in each! Cohousing community does this better than any other, and that is part of why cohousing is the fastest-growing communitarian movement in the world. Another big reason why cohousing is so successful is that it involves the gifting of labor and the sharing of private property in community.
As the cohousing movement clearly shows, people are not as much interested in working to create communal societies based upon the sharing of commonly-owned property, as they are collective communities based upon the sharing of privately-owned property. For this reason cofamilies do not emphasize communalism, although that lifestyle option remains available for the building of communal cofamilies.
The remainder of this article presents information on the growth and development of the intentional communities movement, from small intimate cofamilies to large, bustling cohousing communities.
American Communities Movement Statistics
A survey done by the Fellowship for Intentional Community (FIC) for their 1990 directory counted 240 intentional communities with more than two members in the USA, and in 2010 the total was 679. The number of communities increased 283% during the twenty years from 1990 to 2010, while the total membership increased 269%. How much of this increase is from communities becoming aware of and being willing to be listed in the FIC directory, and how much is it from a growing communities movement? One answer comes from the communities’ founding dates.
There is a grand total of 845 unique communities listed in the two FIC directories (240+679-74duplicates=845). Observing their founding dates, the oldest community was founded in 1891, Synergy House Cooperative, CA. From each of the decades of the 1930s, ‘40s, and ‘50s less than ten communities have survived through to today. From the 1960s Baby Boom Cultural Revolution 26 communities still survive, and from the ‘70s 95 founded communities remain. The 1980s “Big Chill” resulted in only 67 founded communities surviving the decade, then from the 1990s with the advent of cohousing 155 founded communities exist today. From 2000 to 2006 170 communities were founded, averaging 24 new communities per year. Then with the Great Recession new community foundings doubled to 53 in 2007, and 44 in 2008! 2009 was the 2010 directory survey year, so no additional data is available until the next Communities Directory is published, expected in July, 2016.
74 communities appear in both directories (or 31%), although there are also at least 20 more communities in the 1990 directory that are known to still exist yet that opted out of the 2010 directory.
The “retention rate” or “survival rate” of communities from the 1990 to the 2010 directory is about 40% (74+20=94/240). The population increase in twenty years for just the 74 communities is 132% (from 2,423 to 3,195 members), which is about half of the growth rate of the whole directory, perhaps because these 74 are mature communities while most of the others are young.
Small communities (from 3 to 9 members) increased in number from 1990 to 2010 by 239%, and increased in membership by 238%, while at the same time the proportion of small communities fell from 47% of the 1990 directory to 40% of the 2010 directory. This is consistent with cohousing communities starting to be formed in 1989, which are typically larger than non-cohousing communities.
While the number of small communities (3-to-9 members) in the directories decreased, the number of larger communities (>9 members) increased from 53% in 1990 to 61% in 2010. Most likely this is due to the rise of cohousing communities, which typically have larger memberships than non-cohousing communities.
Cohousing Lists: Some of the communities in the FIC Directory are also on the CohousingUSA website list, and while there are 192 groups listed as “using the cohousing model” in the 2010 FIC directory, only 122 of these appear in the cohousing directory (June, 2016). Meaning that there are 70 groups in the FIC directory that have either been refused by or that have not asked to be listed by the cohousing association. There is a total of 200 communities listed in either the FIC or the CohousingUSA directories, and of these 114 cohousing communities appear in both.
The cohousing directory (at: www[dot]cohousing[dot]org) lists a total of 247 communities. Of the 247 communities in the Cohousing USA directory, 146 are listed as established, and 101 are forming. 143 are in the FIC directory and 104 mostly forming cohousing communities are not in the FIC directory. Of the 200 unique communities that either self-identify as “using the cohousing model” in the FIC directory or that appear on the cohousing directory webpage, 21 were founded before the publishing of the cohousing book in 1988 (1 of the 21 was founded in 1988). Thus, these groups discovered and adopted the cohousing identity after their founding. According to their reported founding dates, new cohousing communities were founded at a fairly steady rate of about 9 new communities per year between 1989 and 2009.
Cohousing Labor: Of the 200 cohousing groups listed in either the FIC’s or the cohousing directory, 25 or one-eighth (12.5%) state that they do not share labor, which is contrary to the classic cohousing model. Twelve or nearly half of these 25 are listed in the cohousing directory. This could mean that these 25 communities do not require a labor contribution, yet no cohousing community can legally force residents to sell and move if they do not contribute labor. The FIC survey question was probably, “Are members expected to regularly contribute labor to the group?” What is the difference between a cohousing community that does and one that does not require a labor contribution? Perhaps a group that does not require labor is not a “classic cohousing” community, or perhaps the community pays for all its labor rather than rely upon volunteer, community labor.
Students and Ecovillages: Of 679 groups with >2 members in 2010, 25 communities or 4% self-identify as student housing, and 34 or 5% self-identify as ecovillages. There is no survey question for either of these designations, they come from either the name of the group or their stated “purpose” in the directory.
Governance: Of 679 groups with >2 members in 2010, 434 communities or 64% use consensus, 361 or 53% use consensus with no leaders or core groups, 214 or 32% use consensus with leaders or core groups, 422 or 62% have leaders or core groups, and only 29 or 4% use majority rule. Contradictory statistics either reflects ambiguous survey design and/or the flexibility and evolution of group process.
Sharing Labor and Income: Of 679 groups with >2 members in 2010, 566 or 83% share labor, and 89 or 13% share income (total income sharing is 5%, partial is 8%). In the 1990 directory 77% shared labor and 19% shared income (total was 14% and partial was 5%).
Land: Of 679 groups with >2 members in 2010, 42% or 282 groups are one of three types of community land trust models offered in the survey, yet what is the difference between “community-owned land” and a “land trust?” This is another ambiguous survey item, like cohousing labor, where different respondents may mean different things while using the same survey option, resulting in confusing information. 26% or 175 communities report that an individual or subgroup owns the land. 29% or 197 communities made useless responses.
Spirituality: Of 679 groups with >2 members in 2010, 261 or 38% are spiritual, 28 or 4% are spiritually-identified cohousing communities (classic cohousing communities are secular), and 120 communities or 46% are spiritual with no leader.
Out of 240 communities in 1990 directory >2 members: 134 were spiritual or ecumenical (56%). This reduction in the percentage of spiritual communities from 56% in 1990 to 38% in 2010 is partly due to the change in the survey question, since the type of religion is designated in 1990, while only the simple Y/N option was offered in 2010. However, the change is probably mostly due to most cohousing communities being secular.
Membership growth between 1990 and 2010 was seen by 54 communities or 23% of the 1990 listings. Membership decline between 1990 and 2010 was experienced by 20 communities or 12% of the 1990 directory listings.
Guzzo, K. B. (2014, July). New partners, more kids: Multiple-partner fertility in the United States. Ann Am Acad Pol Soc Sci. Retrieved October 9, 2015, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4182921/
Lipka, Michael. (August 8, 2014). U.S. Nuns Face Shrinking Numbers and Tensions with the Vatican. Pew Research Center. Retrieved June 28, 2016 from: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/08/08/u-s-nuns-face-shrinking-numbers-and-tensions-with-the-vatican/
Logan, C., Manlove, J., Ikramullah, E., & Cottingham, S. (2006, November). Men who father children with more than one woman: A contemporary portrait of multiple-partner fertility. Child Trends research brief. Publication #2006-10 4301 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 350, Washington, DC 20008, 202-572-6000. Retrieved October 9, 2015,from htttp://www.childtrends.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/2006-10MultiplePartnerFertility.pdf
Martin, M. (Host). (2011, April 19). Multiple partner families: More common than you think. (Radio broadcast) with Cassandra Dorius and Maria Cancian (Guests), National Public Radio News. Washington D.C. Retrieved October 9, 2015, from http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=135541549
http://www.census.gov/hhes/families/data/adults.html, figures: AD-3a, HH-6, HH-4, HH-7b
http://www.census.gov/hhes/families/data/children.html, figure CH-1; see also: America’s Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2015 at http://www.childstats.gov/americaschildren/family1.asp