Utopias in America Reply

An interesting discussion of the many utopian colonies that appeared in the U.S. in the 19th century from the National Park Service website.

National Park Service

The Amana Colonies were one of many utopian colonies established on American soil during the 18th and 19th centuries. There were hundreds of communal utopian experiments in the early United States, and the Shakers alone founded around 20 settlements. While great differences existed between the various utopian communities or colonies, each society shared a common bond in a vision of communal living in a utopian society. The definition of a utopian colony, according to Robert V. Hine, author of California’s Utopian Colonies, “consists of a group of people who are attempting to establish a new social pattern based upon a vision of the ideal society and who have withdrawn themselves from the community at large to embody that vision in experimental form.” These colonies can, by definition, be composed of either religious or secular members, the former stressing (in the western tradition) a community life inspired by religion while the latter may express the idealism of a utilitarian creed expedient to establishing human happiness, with a belief in the cooperative way of life. The more familiar non-monastic religious communal movements typical in Western society have generally originated from a deliberate attempt among various Christian sects to revive the structure of the primitive Christian community of first-century Jerusalem, which “held all things in common” (Acts 2.44; 4.32). This essay explores the origins and development of the Utopian idea and its arrival in the United States before giving examples of nineteenth century utopian colonies and some organizations on their ultimate demise. The Shaker, Rappite and Amana experiments, as well as the Oneida community and Brook Farm, find their origins in the European Protestant Reformation and the later Enlightenment.

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