American Utopias, Experiments in Libertarianism from the 19th C. to the contemporary era
From the travels of Welsh Socialist Robert Owen in 1825 to the first frontier communities, from the protest movements of the sixties to contemporary ecology and punk and lesbian groups, the United States has harboured a wide range of utopian communities. Like monks in medieval times, groups of this kind often settled in the midst of remote but magnificent scenery, whilst others took over small village hotels in the former Great Reserve in the West or worked a coalmine on their land. Such acts were proof of a strong desire to live outside the logic of the dominant society.
In its examination of almost two centuries of these experimental communities, this book not only clears away some of the misunderstandings surrounding the phenomenon, still very much in the news today, but also puts it in its rightful place alongside other attempts at revolt against an omnipotent system, all offering an alternative, original and non-exclusive way forward towards social emancipation.
Professor Emeritus at Paul Valéry University in Montpellier, Ronald Creagh is a regular contributor to various Anglo-Saxon and French reviews. His publications include L’Affaire Sacco and Vanzetti / The Sacco and Vanzzetti Case (Éditions de Paris, 2004) and Nos Cousins d’Amérique. Histoire des Français aux Etats Unis / Our American Cousins. A History of the French in the United States (Payot, 1988)
The history of intentional communities in the United States shows they emerged as the result of deep thought and free choice rather than economic and social conditions.
The American colonies and then the newly created Republic clearly offered a situation propitious to collective solidarity. In the early days, thinly populated areas had land for sale at relatively low prices even though communications were not reliable there, whereas built-up areas sometimes had the advantage of assistance from philanthropists ready to give their unoccupied properties away for a variety of reasons. Occasionally, there were even reception facilities indicating the existence of a previous community.
So it was the collectives based on Warren’s principles that benefited from available land and money; like the Owen communities, they were set up at a time when land prices were going down and credit was available. None of these groups could have been formed without these prevailing conditions, and when both trends changed direction, such groups were generally wiped out by real estate speculators. Circumstances eventually changed again, but the local press was always willing to herald any new collective initiative. More recently, a wealth of utopian literature, including science fiction, frequently proposes imaginative new types of society.
Published: 13/10/09 – Public Price 24 euros – 400 Pages – ISBN : 978–2–7489–0107–8