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Working Communally

Working Communally: Patterns and Possibilities

David French
Elena French
Copyright Date: 1975
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 284
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  • Book Info
    Working Communally
    Book Description:

    Examines an alternative to the old patterns of living and working in the prevailing social system-the communal work place where work, recreation, and living space are brought together in a unified setting. The authors deal with a number of questions the communal work group faces, including the selection of projects, the choice of technologies and legal structure, and the means for determining economic viability. Past American and European communitarian movements are traced, as well as the nature and limitations of the new community experiments of the 1960s and 1970s.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-179-7
    Subjects: Business, Economics, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
  3. Part I: Context

    • Chapter 1: The Work System as Oppression—Roots of Discontent
      (pp. 3-18)

      During 1973, a series of conferences was held across the United States to ponder the “changing work ethic” in this country (Shabecoff, 1973:22). The conferees, who included national political figures as well as business and labor leaders, were plainly worried. And with good reason, for the diagnosis of a “changing work ethic” was simply a polite way of noting that large numbers of people were becoming increasingly fed up with the way they earned their living. Earlier in the year, a task force of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare had released a report showing that only 43 percent...

    • Chapter 2: The “New Values”
      (pp. 19-36)

      During the late 1960s, the United States went through what many people took to be a profound assault on its most cherished beliefs. In keeping with the expansiveness of the times, reports of what was happening tended toward the hyperbolic. The carriers of the new values were mutations, a more advanced form of life. In them was reposited Consciousness Three. Some observers, Murray Bookchin among them, saw the roots of the new order in technological developments extending back at least thirty years. But the point, for Bookchin as for others, was that our vastly altered technological condition “negates all the...

    • Chapter 3: The Communal Work Place—Vision and Values
      (pp. 37-60)

      To illustrate the structure and values of a social order responsive to the problems outlined in Chapter 1, we begin below with a description of one communal work place. Should you follow the clues we provide to its location, however, you may be disappointed. If you inquire at the local general store or post office as to where the commune can be found, they may look at you strangely and suggest you have lost your way. At some point, you may begin to wonder whether the group exists at all, whether we have invented the tales we tell of it....

  4. Part II: Patterns

    • Chapter 4: America in the Nineteenth Century—Determinants of Communal Success
      (pp. 63-80)

      In Chapter 3, we illustrated some of the changes in attitude that people seeking to create communal work places today should be prepared to accept. Since our primary concern is with the potential for such work places in the United States, we used a group we call “Tana” as an example of a present-day working commune, and placed it in this country. As we note throughout this part of the book, however, many of the same points could be drawn from experiences recorded in other places or other times. For example, the history of the communitarian wave which began in...

    • Chapter 5: America in the 1960s—The Counterculture Communes
      (pp. 81-100)

      In the mid-1960s, Americans gradually began to feel a stirring deep within the nation’s soul. Beyond the war, and beyond the great urban riots and the assassinations, were far more mysterious events, all the more trouble-some for their tendency to appear first in the behavior of one’s children. Strange things were happening: group gropes, acid, hippies, flower children, dropping out, crash pads, communes, Dylan, Kesey, The Haight, Taos. Worst of all was the fact that the essence of it was somehow incommunicable to respectable citizens. Said Dylan: “There’s something happening here, but you don’t know what it is, do you,...

    • Chapter 6: America in the 1970s—Cooperatives and “New Communities”
      (pp. 101-118)

      By the 1970s, evidence of the counterculture’s decline began to accumulate. In its newsletter, Boston’s New Community Projects reported on a survey it had conducted of area “communes” (April 17, 1972:1). Asked if they shared income, forty-four communes replied that they did not, ten said that income was shared “for some things,” and one claimed to be sharing income completely. Asked about their political orientation, thirty-six communes responded that they had none as a group, ten claimed to be “radical,” and three saw themselves as “liberal.” Significantly, NCP saw nothing strange about lumping together as “communes” a range of groups...

    • Chapter 7: Experiments Abroad
      (pp. 119-138)

      Contemporary American alternative-seekers have tended to present their social experiments as revolutionary new forms of living. As we indicated in Chapter 4, however, such experimentation is hardly new to the United States. This chapter describes attempts to form communal or communitarian groups in recent decades in many other parts of the world. Those involved in the American “movement” have often strongly resisted the idea that their efforts have been anticipated by other groups—the idea that only the “new” can be worthwhile remains deeply rooted in our national life. But there are more positive ways to view the persistence of...

    • Chapter 8: Alternatives for Total Systems—Socialism and Anarchism
      (pp. 139-158)

      Practically all the communal experiments dealt with in the last four chapters were carried out within noncommunal societies. This is an unhealthy situation for such groups, if only because their necessary contacts with the outside world run the risk of undermining their communal principles. As one kibbutz member has commented, “We have to produce in the capitalist system and we have to make a profit—there is no way out of that. But when we succeed, we are increasingly influenced by the capitalist way of thinking” (quoted in Stern, 1973:114). Such dangers will persist as long as communes are minority...

  5. Part III: Possibilities

    • Chapter 9: Anticipations of a New Communalism?—Twin Oaks, Grateful Union, the Bruderhof
      (pp. 161-180)

      Throughout this book we have indicated ways in which American ideology, whether expressed through the dominant culture or through alternative-seekers, makes the development of communal work places extremely difficult. This is not simply a conclusion in the abstract. In a four-year search for such work places, we have found only a handful—and not from want of trying. We have visited several dozen intentional communities across the country, and have interviewed or corresponded with representatives of dozens more. We have attended a number of gatherings of communards and others working to escape from traditional work patterns. We have talked with...

    • Chapter 10: Communal Work—Examples, Technologies, Attributes
      (pp. 181-202)

      In the fall of 1971, theNew York Times Magazinepublished an account of our adventures in the counterculture (French, 1971). In that article, we criticized the extent to which the counterculture had retained old-culture assumptions, and we suggested a need for people to develop a genuinely alternative “counter‘counterculture’ culture” that would be rooted in communal work. Of the dozens of letters we received in response, a large proportion were from people who wanted to know more about this hypothetical next step. Most of the writers were established in traditional careers, many had children, and all were reluctant to...

    • Chapter 11: Making Communal Work Work—Economics and Law
      (pp. 203-222)

      Having agreed at least tentatively on the venture that will provide its economic base, a communal group’s work has only begun. Some determination must be made in advance as to the project’s financial viability. Patterns for distributing income among members of the group must be arrived at. Decisions must be made as to the legal forms within which land will be owned, commercial assets held, and business conducted. Account must be taken of governmental requirements with respect to licensing, zoning, sales taxes, unemployment compensation, income tax withholding, and Social Security payments. And accounting procedures must be established. Only when all...

    • Chapter 12: The Communal Work Place and Social Change
      (pp. 223-240)

      In the chapters above, we have set forth a vision of what communal work places might be like and how they might be created. If this remains as yet largely “vision” in the American context, which powerfully conditions us all to reject moves toward communalism, it is nonetheless far more than mere fantasy. At each point, the image set forth corresponds to realities of the many working communes which have existed in the past, and which persist in many parts of the world today. The fact that such groupscanexist, however, does not in itself prove that theyshould....

  6. Bibliography
    (pp. 241-258)
  7. Index
    (pp. 259-269)