Intentional Communities in the USA
Wilbur Zelinsky, a prominent cultural geographer,
states in his book, The Cultural Geography of the United States, that
U.S. culture expresses four locally distinctive and geographically relevant
1) intense, almost anarchistic individualism;
2) high valuation placed on mobility and change;
3) mechanistic vision of the world; and
4) messianic perfectionism.
Think how these themes are expressed in every day life
and be sure to consider these themes as we discuss utopian communities.
Humans live for ideals, secular and religious. Intentional
or utopian communities explicitly seek to establish ideals different from those
of the society around them. In the USA, the dominant
ideology has assumed that "salvation" and material prosperity could only be
achieved by individuals.
Yet dissident idealists have always existed in North America who looked upon the "New World" as a
potential paradise for collective organization and ownership. [For a very
different view of U.S. history -- the importance of prisoners --
see Scott Christianson.]
Several hundred groups (totaling at least 100,000 people) established alternative societies with
names in U.S. history:
| communistic societies | socialist communities
| communitarian groups | utopian settlements | communes
Although these societies are/were different from the dominant one,
ironically they share(d)
the national lore of
earthy paradise, self-reliance, and moral superiority.
In this course, we stress
particularly the cultural landscape and material manifestations of these
intentional communities. If you are interested in more details about any aspect
of their lives, consult the many books that have been written on each.
Be sure to scroll down this page to important links to
each of the intentional communities discussed in this course.