Michel Bauwens: Here is an excellent article on communities from Allen Butcher.

A. Allen Butcher • The School of Intentioneering • [email protected] • February 24, 2019

This paper (of 8,384 words) was first published as a blog post at: http://www.Intentioneers.net serving as a preview of the material to appear in a forthcoming book. For a history by the same author of the gifting and sharing counterculture see: The Intentioneers’ Bible: Interwoven Stories of the Parallel Cultures of Plenty and Scarcity for sale at Amazon.com

Please note, several sections have been excerpted; the full texts are available through the “read more” hyperlink to the original post.

1. Idealism versus Self-Interest

It is not the private interests of the individual that creates lasting community, but rather the goals of humanity. — I Ching (ancient Chinese divination text)

The correlation to reality: When I surveyed former members of the egalitarian, communal, intentional community East Wind in Missouri about why they joined and why they left, people said that they joined for idealistic reasons like sustainable, ecological lifestyle, feminism, cooperation, equality and such, and left for personal reasons, like going back to school, or to pursue a career not available in the community, or to focus upon a relationship and children. The I Ching got it right, although this is in slight contradiction to item number 10 “Individuality versus Community.”


2. Class-Harmony versus Class-Conflict

The mutual respect among people of different socio-economic statuses in non-communal intentional communities creates the peace of class-harmony, as opposed to a disrespect leading to the violence of Marxist class-conflict.

The correlation in reality: Jesus of Nazareth (the inspiration for Christianity), Robert Owen (English advocate of the early cooperative movement in which the term “socialist” originated in 1827), and Charles Fourier (French utopian writer who advocated a “formula for the division of profits among capital, talent, and labor” see: Edward Spann, 1989, Brotherly Tomorrows, p. 165) all showed that community does not require economic equality among people. “Class-harmony community” accommodates people of different social-economic statuses living and working together. Jesus, or those who created Christianity, along with Owen, and Fourier got it right!


3. Intentional versus Circumstantial Community

Intentional community, in which people deliberately define and live common values, as opposed to circumstantial community where people happen to live in proximity by chance, illustrates the “communal sharing theory,” which states that the greater the experience people have of sharing and/or gifting, the greater will be their commitment to the community thus formed.

The correlation in practice: Sharing and gifting involves material objects as well as thoughts, beliefs, feelings, emotions, leadership, and power, the practice of which builds resilience for survival of the community’s unique identity. It is through practicing gifting and sharing in many different formats that the communities movement is continually growing, differentiating, and evolving. Labor-gifting is used in communities which involve the sharing of privately-owned property, like cohousing and class-harmony communities, and labor-sharing is used in communities which involve the sharing of commonly-owned property, specifically communal societies. Intentional communities having both private and common property, like community land trusts, may practice any form of time-based economy: labor-exchanging, labor-gifting, labor-sharing.


4. Sharing versus Privacy

The “communal privacy theory” states that increasing levels of privacy, afforded by resources or powers entrusted to individuals (called “trusterty”), does not reduce communalism as long as the ownership and responsibility remains under communal ownership and control.

The correlation to practice: “Trusterty” is the process of entrusting commonly-owned assets or powers to individuals for personal use or for service to the community. Egalitarian communal society entrusts assets and powers to individuals and small groups. Trusterty also refers to the trusted asset or power, for example in land trusts the term refers to both natural resources and to the responsibilities of the trustees. (The term “trusterty” is attributed to the Russian anarchist, Prince Peter Kropotkin.)


5. Cofamily versus Consanguineous Family

The “cofamily” affirms and expands the options or possibilities of human culture beyond the common forms of the family of single-parent, nuclear, extended, and blended families, to include small groups of adults in community who are not related by blood or marriage.

The correlation to practice: A “cofamily” (which may also be called an “intentional family”) is a small community of three-to-nine adults with or without children, with the prefix “co” referring to: collective, complex, cooperative, convoluted, communal, complicated, conflicted, or any similar term, except consanguineous. A cofamily may or may not be a group marriage, as in the plural-conjugal structures of polyamory and polyfidelity. A cofamily may stand alone as a small intentional community or be part of a larger community such as cohousing or a communal society as a “nested cofamily” (sometimes also called “small living groups” or SLGs) whether comprised only of adults or formed around the care of children or those with special needs.


6. Family or Cofamily-Based Childcare versus Large-Group Communal Childcare

People often romanticize “communal childcare,” and it is well that they do! Communal childcare is a beautiful thing when it works, and it works best in small groups such as cofamilies and nested cofamilies, primarily due to the need to limit the number of adults who must make and keep agreements about the children.  Large-group communalism has an inherent bias against children: as couples forming in the community leave to start a family elsewhere; as adults without children are concerned that the children who are born into the community will likely leave eventually and not become members, after the community pays the expense of raising them; and as large-group communal childcare in which parents cede decision-making power over their children to the group has proven unsustainable over the long term. Yet the problems are mostly among the adults! Meanwhile, Daniel Greenberg presents in his study of children in community the quote from an anonymous community member saying, “For our young children, community is the closest they’re ever going to get in this life to paradise!” (Anonymous, paraphrased from Daniel Greenberg, Communities no. 92, Fall, 1996, p. 12) ***

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7. Solidarity versus Alienation

In community people clearly see that we are all in this together, while in the monetary economy it is understood that everyone is in it for themselves.

The correlation to experience: Time-based economies, whether labor-exchanging (e.g., Time Dollars), labor-gifting (e.g., volunteering, “giving back,” and “paying it forward”), or labor-sharing (i.e., whether anti-quota or vacation-credit labor systems), by valuing all community-labor equally no matter what is done or who is doing it, provide freedom from the alienation of monetary economics.


8. Abstract Principle versus Unique Situation

Confusing the image for the essence is a common mistake. “Any idea of God is just that —an idea. Confusing the idea of God with the true ineffable nature of the Mystery is idolatry.” (Timothy Feke and Peter Gandy, Jesus and the Lost Goddess: The Secret Teachings of the Original Christians, 2001, p. 27)

The correlation in community: The psychology professor Deborah Altus (Washburn University, Topeka, KS) explains that the Harvard psychologist B. F. Skinner, who wrote Walden Two, a utopian fiction applying his theories of behavioral engineering, appreciated Sunflower House (KS) and Los Horcones (Mexico) because those communities affirmed empiricism (the scientific method) in a deliberate, systematic way, in contrast with Twin Oaks (VA) and East Wind (MO) in which the founders initially attempted to emulate Skinner’s utopian fiction Walden Two (1948) as a blueprint, although eventually evolving their own unique systems. In his 1949 book Paths in Utopia (p. 139) Martin Buber concurs with Skinner saying, “Community should not be made into a principle; it should always satisfy a situation rather than an abstraction. The realization of community, like the realization of any idea, cannot occur once and for all time; always it must be the moment’s answer to the moment’s question, and nothing more.” Emmy Arnold, wife of Eberhard Arnold, cofounders of the Society of Brothers or Bruderhof wrote, possibly in reference to the Bruderhof’s on-again-off-again relationship with the much older, larger, and more traditional Hutterites, “A life shared in common is a miracle. People cannot remain together for the sake of traditions. Community must be given again and again as a new birth.” (Emmy Arnold, 1974, Children in Community, 2nd edition, originally published 1963, p. 173)


9. Communal Economics versus Exchange Economies

The well known Morelly’s Maxim written in the 18th century of “from each according to ability; to each according to need” is now updated in the 21st century to apply to groups as opposed to individuals by the present author in Allen’s Aphorism as “from all according to intent; to all according to fairness.” Ability is to intent; as need is to fairness.

The correlation in community: As Daniel Gavron wrote about the Kibbutz movement in Israel, the red line between communalism and the exchange economy is whether all labor is valued equally or whether differential compensation is used to reward different types of labor. “… [W]hereas previous changes in the kibbutz way of life, such as increasing personal budgets [see: 4. Sharing versus Privacy] and having the children sleep in their parent’s homes [see: 6. Family versus Communal Childcare], did not alter the fundamental character of the institution, the introduction of differential salaries indicated a sea change.” (Gavron, 2000, Kibbutz: Awakening from Utopia, p. 9)

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10. Individuality versus Community

There must be brotherly [and sisterly] love, a wholeness of humanity. But there must also be pure, separate individuality, separate and proud. —D. H. Lawrence

The correlation in community: Many writers about community have focused upon the opposing dynamics of the individual versus the community, some suggesting the need for individuals to give up attachments to their own interests in order to support what brings and keeps the community together. Rosabeth Moss Kanter’s 1972 book Commitment and Community considers a large range of these issues. An example would be in communal groups where each member is given a private room, which is a basic need for individual privacy that communal groups generally recognize. Yet a dynamic seen in such groups is that some new members spend the first months of their membership focused upon fixing up their rooms, like building a sleeping loft or raised bed with storage below, installing a parquet floor, painting the room, building shelves and so on, then soon after it is done, they drop membership and leave. They never make the transition from focusing upon themselves to focusing upon the group. In the opposite case of over-bearing group-think and manipulative group processes, the individual loses the ability to think critically and independently (see: Tim Miller, 2016, “‘Cults’ and Intentional Communities,” Communities Directory 7th Ed., FIC; and Marlene Winell, 1993, Leaving the Fold: A Guide for Former Fundamentalists and Others Leaving their Religion). Survival of an intentional community requires that at certain points the individual and the group must be interlocking, yet both must be sufficiently autonomous to resist submergence of one by the other. [This is somewhat contrary to item number 1 “Idealism versus Self-Interest.”]


11. Social Pressure Justified by Idealism versus Dissenting Non-Compliance

When the irresistible force of personal needs hits the immovable object of the attachment to communal ideals, a cognitive dissonance results of people doing one thing while saying something contradictory about exactly what it is they are doing.

The correlation in community: For about a decade East Wind Community, about a quarter-century Twin Oaks Community, about sixty years the Kibbutz movements, and for probably a few centuries the Hutterite colonies, all struggled to make something work that tends to not work well in large communal societies; designing and maintaining communal childcare systems in which the community rather than the parents make all the decisions for the children. [See: 6. Family or Cofamily-Based Childcare versus Large-Group Communal Childcare] In many cases the community sentiment is essentially that of course a communal society must have a communal childcare system, while typically the children who grow up in communal childcare systems refuse to raise their own children the same way, resulting in their leaving the communal society to have children and sometimes causing the communal community itself to privatize or disband.

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12. The Parallel Cultures of Exchange Economies versus Communal Economics

While America is generally described as a “capitalist country” the dominant culture is actually fairly well balanced between the aspects of competition and of cooperation. The theory of “parallel cultures” as developed by the present author says that the two economic systems are intertwined or interwoven, such that the debt-based monetary system and the non-monetary time-based system are mutually dependent.

Although the monetary system gets all the glory (via economic metrics such as GNP/GDP), the fact is that industrial, agricultural, governmental and all other forms of production are dependent upon the uncounted labor which provides domestic and community services, usually performed by women. If the non-monetarily-compensated work in domestic reproduction, often called “women’s work,” were to be monetized, it would add significantly to the country’s GNP/GDP. As it is, the corporate/private and government/public world is dependent upon the non-monetized domestic labor of women and men for the raising of each generation of wage-earning and salaried employees.

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13. Utopian Countercultural Lifestyles versus Imposed Reality of the Dominant Culture

Cultural innovations often arise from utopian theory or from within intentional communities, or they are picked up by communities from the outside-world and adapted or evolved, then are disseminated back into the outside-world where they may result in changes in the dominant culture. Three examples of this dynamic are: feminism, legal structures for communalism, and freedom from taxation.

The correlations in community—Feminism: Charles Fourier (1772-1837) of France was an eccentric utopian philosopher and writer who focused upon cooperation rather than communalism, and like Robert Owen who inspired the cooperative movement in England, Fourier is credited with being an early inspiration to the French worker and consumer cooperative movements (Beecher and Bienvenu, pp. 66-7). Both Fourier and Owen inspired later class-harmony communities [see: 2. Class-Harmony versus Class-Conflict]. Using a pen-name, Fourier published in 1808 his Theory of the Four Trends and the General Destinies in which he stated that, “the extension of the privileges of women is the fundamental cause of all social progress.” Beginning in the 1840s, as Jonathan Beecher and Richard Bienvenu write in their 1971 book, The Utopian Vision of Charles Fourier, this statement became “one of the battle cries of radical feminism,” contributing to the revolutionary movements of 1848 throughout Europe (B. & B., p. 196). Fourier is also “credited with coining or giving currency to the term … feminism” (Nicholas Riasanovsky, 1969, The Teaching of Charles Fourier, p. 208), which later became, along with the cooperative movement, two primary aspects of socialism, with the first use of the term “socialist” appearing in the Owenite London Cooperative Magazine in 1827. Feminism became a mass movement of its own through the suffragette and material-feminist organizing (see: Dolores Hayden, 1981, The Grand Domestic Revolution) of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with feminism’s second wave occurring during the radical protests and organizing of the 1960s and ‘70s. According to Rosabeth Moss Kanter in her 1972 book Commitment and Community, it was from a 1960s New York women’s liberation group that Twin Oaks Community adopted the word “co” to use as a neutral, non-gender-specific pronoun, in place of “he” and “she,” and “cos” in place of the possessive “his” and “hers” (Kanter, p. 23; see also Kinkade, The Collected Leaves of Twin Oaks, vol. 1, p. 115 and vol. 2, p. 23). In a letter from Kat Kinkade to Jon Wagner, professor of sociology at Knox College, Galesburg, IL, around 1980, Kinkade wrote about Twin Oaks and East Wind Communities that, “sexual equality … is fundamental to our idea of ‘equality,’ and equality is fundamental to our approach to changing society. There is no platform of our ideology that is more central.” To which Jon Wagner replied in his 1982 book Sex Roles in Contemporary American Communes, “These communities may be among the most nonsexist social systems in human history.” (Wagner, pp. 37-8)

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Motivations for Communitarian Gifting and Sharing

The intentioneering of cultural innovations in utopian theory and communitarian cultures is often motivated by the desire among people to live in ways more consistent with their greatest values and highest ideals of personal responsibility for self, society, and nature than what the dominant culture offers or supports. As explained in section 12 “The Parallel Cultures of Exchange Economies versus Communal Economics,” the gifting and sharing cultures give rise to monetary economics, which became the “dominant culture” expressing the negative values of possessiveness and competition, while monetary economics similarly gives rise to countercultural systems of gifting and sharing representing the positive aspects of cooperative culture first learned in eons of tribal culture. Ever since the advent of money people have devised forms of time-based economies to escape the evils of monetary economics, including endless warfare, mass slavery, wealth amidst poverty, and environmental decline.

When money is not used within a community, encouragement and reward for participation requires creative methods for expressing group affirmation and appreciation for the time and skills contributed by each person. Since there is no monetary reward for motivating work in the time-based economy, forms of positive reinforcement for contributing time in labor or work may include:

  • Personal satisfaction for doing work valued and appreciated by others, or which serves the common good;
  • Recognition by friends for one’s good work, especially when offered personally, and
  • Knowing that other members are also doing the best quality work they can for the community.

This latter form of positive reinforcement results in a sense of group awareness and commitment, or esprit de corps to use a military term, which helps to avoid or decrease burnout, or the loss of the intention originally inspiring the individual due to the daily effort required to maintain commitment and participation.

There is a large amount of sociological and psychological material about what motivates people, suggesting that “carrot and stick” approaches which inspire hope-of-gain versus fear-of-loss is not the most important concern. Daniel Pink explains in his 2009 book Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us that once our basic survival needs are met, our greatest motivation for what we do is the resulting personal growth and development that we realize, toward expressing our individual human potential. The author analyzes the components of personal motivation as being first autonomy, or the desire to direct our own lives, then mastery, or the desire to continually improve what we do (and the more it matters to others the better), and also the desire to be of service to an ideal or something that is larger than just one’s own life. Alfie Kohn writes in his 1999 book, Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise, and Other Bribes that “artificial inducements” only work for a period of time, after which the lack of a meaningful context for what we do can cause people to lose interest in the bribes offered. Rewards can actually work against creativity as they discourage risk-taking when the safest way to earn a reward is to follow the methods designed and imposed by others. Kohn identifies the conditions for authentic motivation as collaboration with others, the meaningfulness of the work, and choice or self-direction, all of which can be provided in the social-economic-political design of intentional community.

Natural Law as the Unified-Field Theory of Human Society

The thirteen correlations of theory and practice above present fundamental dichotomies in human culture. Many of these and probably others can also be written as ironies of human culture, yet however presented they may also be considered to be behavioristic principles of “natural law,” and together affirmed as aspects of the unified-field theory of communitarianism, or of the practice of intentioneering, as expressed in the application of our highest values and ideals in our chosen lifestyle.

Natural law integrates in one coherent world view a set of moral principles for the design of spiritual, political, economic, and other social issues. These aspects of our existence at the juncture of the physical and the spiritual aspects of the universe justifies both common and private property by affirming respect for social, environmental, and personal responsibility in our applications of the laws-of-nature.

These correlations of intentional community, or of intentioneering theory and experience, represent at least some of the psychological laws of behaviorism. These balance the group’s right to self-determination in creating its social contract, including a behavior code and a system of property ownership and/or control, against the individual’s subjective needs and wants. The individual’s participation in the mutual processes of decentralized, self-governance, toward common expressions of “the good life,” results in our cultural evolution through successive approximations of paradise on Earth.


• Behaviorism (behavioral psychology) — A philosophical theory that all behavior ultimately results from external environmental influences upon, or conditioning of, the individual’s internal cognition, emotions, and attitudes.

• Natural Law (political or religious philosophy) — A body of unchanging moral principles influencing human conduct, whether recognized through reason or revelation.

• Intentioneering (compare with communitarianism) — The effort to design and live a preferred lifestyle or culture; coined from the terms “intentional community” and “behavioral engineering.”

Photo by Maia C


For more information, please visit Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) and the Fellowship for Intentional Community (FIC), which has a directory of ICs and a huge amount of other material. 

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