The Communitarian Moment: The Radical Challenge of the Northampton Association

The Communitarian Moment: The Radical Challenge of the Northampton Association

The Communitarian Moment: The Radical Challenge of the Northampton Association

The Communitarian Moment: The Radical Challenge of the Northampton Association

Excerpt

In 1843 the popular Hutchinson family of singers visited the Brook Farm community in West Roxbury, Massachusetts. In April of the following year they stayed and performed at another "utopian" community, the Northampton Association of Education and Industry, in the western part of the state. They found much in common with the members at Northampton, many of whom were committed abolitionists like themselves. But their visit also crystallized an idea that had been developing among them since their visit to Brook Farm, that living in "community" was a step toward a better way of organizing society as a whole. When they returned that summer of 1844 to their farm in Milford, New Hampshire, they discussed forming a community themselves. At the particular urging of John Hutchinson, they resolved to run their farm collectively for a year, putting their concert earnings into a "community treasury" and sharing responsibility for it equally. In doing so they joined thousands of Americans who, in the 1840s, set up, entered, or debated schemes for community reform that they hoped might transform their nation's way of life.

The optimism of many of the men and women who joined communities soon faded, and although some remained committed to the search for an ideal community most turned their attention to other reforms from the late 1840s onward. (The Hutchinsons' experiment itself came to an end when they left for a singing tour of Britain in 1845.) As a scholar concerned with the history both of capitalist societies and of utopian . . .

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