Academic journal article Communal Societies

Camphill at Seventy-Five: Developmental Communalism in Process

Academic journal article Communal Societies

Camphill at Seventy-Five: Developmental Communalism in Process

Article excerpt

Introduction

In 2014, the international Camphill movement turned seventy-five years old. From its beginnings in Scotland in 1939, Camphill has grown into a network of more than one hundred schools and villages, located on four continents, where more than five thousand people with and without developmental disabilities share daily life and work. This anniversary provides an occasion for a fresh examination of Donald Pitzer's theory of developmental communalism, which holds that communal sharing is typically just one phase in the evolution of a community or movement. Drawing on decades of study of communal movements in the United States and around the world, Pitzer observed that movements "that do not adjust their strictly communal efforts or adopt new organizational forms more suitable to changing internal and external conditions and the needs of rising generations can arrest their own development," while those that create "more pliable social, economic and administrative forms usually see their causes not only survive but flourish." (1) More recently, Pitzer has predicted that the twenty-first century will be "a time when progressive ideas, ideals, and innovations" developed in the small intentional communities of the twentieth century will "become integrated into the general society." (2)

Camphill today is a living laboratory for Pitzer's theory because, although the movement is still spreading to new places, many participants fear that it is abandoning its most distinctive cooperative features. Notable among these features are the practices of income-sharing--in which people work without salaries and rely on the community for their economic needs--and life-sharing--in which people of diverse abilities occupy households in which meals, recreation, religious services, and seasonal festivals are all shared. Camphill has never been fully communal, in the sense of all assets being held in common, so these practices of income- and life-sharing will serve as the baseline for this consideration of Camphill's current developmental processes. Camphill founder Karl Konig was referring primarily to income--and life-sharing when he declared that "the establishment of a true community" was one of the three "Camphill essentials," along with "regard for the spiritual nature" of persons with disabilities and commitment to "inner development" on the part of their teachers and companions. Konig's declaration notwithstanding, these practices are by no means considered "essential" by every Camphill community today. Yet Konig also used organic, developmental metaphors to describe Camphill: the three essentials were not fixed rules but "fruits and flowers" that would need to "unfold and grow" in order for Camphill to "develop and ... keep its pledge to the handicapped child." And though the current changes in Camphill may be in some respects a development away from communalism, in other respects they reveal a new unfolding of the founding value of "true community." (3)

The account of Camphill's developmental processes in this essay is based on seventeen years of participant observation, site visits, and formal interviews with Camphillers. My research on Camphill began in the summer of 1999, when I spent one month living at Camphill Village Minnesota and participating fully in community activities. Over the course of similar visits during the next three summers, personal curiosity evolved into scholarly interest, and I began conducting shorter visits to most other Camphill places in the United States. That research culminated in the publication of a comparative study of the Camphill and Catholic Worker communities. (4) In the years following that publication, I returned regularly to Camphill communities for conferences, class field trips, and community events. During a sabbatical in 2013-2014, I entered a more intense period of research that included visits to approximately thirty Camphill schools and villages in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Canada, along with more than one hundred semistructured interviews with Camphillers. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.