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Utopias Why have the social experiments known as utopias and communes consistently failed?

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Presentation on theme: "Utopias Why have the social experiments known as utopias and communes consistently failed?"— Presentation transcript:

1 Utopias Why have the social experiments known as utopias and communes consistently failed?

2 Why utopias fail: Lecture objectives Discuss why utopias fail. Describe the tension states in Twin Oaks and discuss why it and the Hutterites are more successful than most utopias. Describe phantoms as a propaganda device. Contrast liberal democracies with utopias to illustrate why liberal democracies are successful.

3 What is a utopia? Utopia literally means “no place;” homophone Eutopia means “good place” Utopias tend to possess these characteristics: Economic: socialist (goods held in common) Political: no government or benign authoritarian (who acts in the community’s best interest) Culture/Religion: A few promote a particular religion (Hutterites; cultic groups); some literary utopias promote secularism and science

4 The fate of utopias Most remain imaginary Those that are built most often end within 5 years or less Successful ones survive until the founder dies Success defined as: Persists over time Economic self-sufficient & viable Other measures: member satisfaction & turn-over

5 Why do the fail? Most utopias have no checks and balances on power (power accumulates in a leader by design or fiat) Most utopias fail to develop adequate conflict resolution mechanisms (tend to be ad hoc or authoritarian) Most utopias do not have a means for securing adequate resources

6 Imaginary Utopias Plato: Atlantis & The Republic Thomas More: Utopia (satire) Francis Bacon: The New Atlantis Tomasso Campanella: The City of the Sun Edward Bellamy: Looking Backwards Samuel Butler: Erewhon (satire) H. G. Wells: A Modern Utopia James Hilton: Lost Horizons Dystopias George Orwell: 1984 & Animal Farm Aldous Huxley Brave New World Anthony Burgess Clockwork Orange

7 Small group examples of utopias and their fates: Brook Farm ( ) Socialist and transcendentalist farm (Nathaniel Hawthorne a member) Stock Company where all members share the profits; promotion of both intellectual and physical development; limited equality of sex roles; based on Fourierism. Bankrupt – commune could not make enough to survive; people with skills didn’t like working while others did little or nothing; skilled people would leave Hawthorne’s Blithedale Romance, a fictitious description of Brook Farm describes the story of an anti-capitalist commune nonetheless destroyed by the self-interested behavior of some of its members.

8 Example: Fruitlands (June January 1844) Established by Amos Bronson Alcott – believed in the spiritual essence of all things; the material world corrupted the good Goal was to create a socialist utopia with no dependence on the outside world (live off the land) Vegan diet and no animals used in farming Failed in winter due to food shortages (no technology to produce goods) and social discord (over course of community and celibacy & family duties) Louisa May Alcott (daughter) wrote Transcendental Wild Oats about her experience as a 10 year old in the commune: a bitter satire portraying her father figure as a dreamer and her mother as the one who did all the work to meet worldly needs like food and shelter.

9 Examples: Oneida ( ) Founded by John Humphrey Noyes (autocratic, charismatic leader) Self-supporting enterprise through a diversity of industries (farming, silk production, animal traps and silverware). Complex bureaucracy of 27 standing committees and 48 administrative sections, Mutual self-criticism (really leader control of members) Complex marriage (all married to all) and open sexuality (at least 3 times a week with different partners); young boys and girls trained by older women and men; controlled ejaculation to prevent pregnancy; bettered yourself by having sex with the spiritually superior. Some gender equality (woman must wear pants below short skirt) Community declined because (a) young members wanted marriage and (b) power struggle between Noyes’s son and other members for leadership after J. H. Noyes fled on statutory rape charges Oneida disbanded and formed the Oneida Company Limited – makers of tableware until 2005.

10 Examples: Amana Community ( ) Based on Pietism (traditional sex roles; intense personal relationship with God) Communal theocracy: Elders elected who had absolute authority; Christian Metz & Barbara Heinemann served as original charismatic leaders Socialism in that all profits went to the community, but goods distributed within the community via capitalism (each person received a credit from elders) After death of Heinemann/Metz in 1883 community experienced problems: Introduction of Christian Scientists Youth desired fruits of the world In 1932 group voted to abandon communism and establish its church and a capitalistic corporation: Amana Refrigeration, Inc.

11 Three Utopias in detail Black Bear Ranch (failure) Twin Oaks (somewhat successful) Hutterites (most successful communist regime in human history)

12 Black Bear Ranch Hippie commune in Siskiyou, CA Land paid for by Doors, Frank Zappa & The Monkees “Free Land for Free People” Provide an alternative to American capitalism and to spur the revolution Everyone free to do their own thing All things held communally Clothes shared; free love; shared child-rearing; everyone did the chores

13 Black Bear Ranch: Problems Failed to make a living (despite façade of plowing the land) Dependent on women for their welfare checks (Note: gender roles became more equal per resource dependency theories) Received funds from wealthy benefactors and community aid Commune became dependent on the technology and surplus income and the compassion of the society they were suppose to replace Interpersonal jealousy Community rule that you could not sleep with the same person more than 2 nights in a row This rule resulted in intense jealousy when people feel in love

14 Black Bear Ranch: Problems Conflict with no conflict resolution methods Ex: Artist (a founder) would leave commune for short periods to paint; commune took care of her child; commune resented the extra work; artist complained about how the commune took care of the child; resentments that persist 25 years later Shiva Lila (cult looking for the perfect child-care) was “asked” (forced) to leave because others didn’t like their methods New rules, authorities, and power coalitions emerge Can’t sleep with the same person for more than 2 nights No artists because that is individualistic and capitalistic Internal coalitions fight for their way Social consensus used to remove disliked people Laissez-faire becomes authoritarian with a veneer of freedom (Iron Law of Oligopoly) Land still available to serve as a commune

15 Walden II as inspiration for Twin Oaks Walden II by B. F. Skinner portrayed a rural utopian community of: Culture based on Skinner’s behavioral principles (although not described in detail in the book; some practices actual conflict with his principles) Economics based on Bellamy’s labor-credit system (variable system where points are awarded based on free market system of bidding for jobs) Political system: Benign planners (Frazier) set policy which was carried out by technical managers; planners and managers selected by past planners

16 Twin Oaks Located outside Charlottesville, VA Established by Kat Kincade Began as a Walden II community following Walden II principles (planners, variable labor credits, science as cultural guide) Economy based on low-skill level jobs of hammock making and some farming plus routine housekeeping chores Success: 40 years in operation, although it has not survived its founder (but probably will) Weakness: High turn-over rate (25% leave each year; average stay is 4-8 years) Members show high rates of dissatisfaction and boredom; realize it is “not utopia after all” Show DVD

17 What happened to Twin Oaks? Power struggles and fights within the community Solution: evolve towards a capitalistic, free market democracy Twin Oaks had been criticized by other communes because Twin Oaks has “structure” as opposed to laissez-faire, do your own thing philosophy

18 Twin Oaks: Political system Planners must seek “input” on all major decisions from members (an informal poll to reach consensus) Members vote on budget allocation via Tradeoff Game (each member allocates a fixed set of points to various budget items set by planners) Managers still selected by competency

19 Twin Oaks: Economics Replaced variable labor-credit system with a fixed one: everyone works a set number of hours a week regardless of task Currently 53 hours a week Community found it impossible to implement variable system because people would game the system and there was no reward for developing skills (if you could be replaced by someone bidding lower than you) Fixed labor system is like a capitalist system where everyone is at minimum wage: Creates a “get credits” mentality Work is not fun and fulfilling (major source of turn-over) Source of resentment as you see others not working hard, so you too don’t work hard (which in turn means everyone has to work longer hours)

20 Twin Oaks: Culture/Social Life Behaviorism replaced by “New Age” and left-wing ideology Minimum restrictions on life-style within left-wing framework (no support of GOP/Bush in community) Conflict over left-wing lifestyles (e.g. violent videos) Conflict resolution: Planners on economic matters Vote on major issues (violent videos; rewards for left-wing protesting) Informal ad hoc methods for lifestyle (community members will mediate fights such as those involving sexual jealousy when it threats the community)

21 How well does Twin Oaks resolve conflict? List the sources of conflict in the Twin Oaks community. What is the source of Kat’s resentment about the Twin Oaks community? Why does the Twin Oaks community resent Kat? How can the resentments be resolved?

22 Common Utopian conflicts Work load allocation Free rider/social loafing Resource allocation Short-term: what to spend resource on (e.g., which movies to purchase) Long-term: how much to invest/save versus spend today Stratification Socialism has high economic stratification Compassion Limited resources prevent spending on the disabled, elderly, children and others not immediately contributing to the utopia’s financial bottom line.

23 Utopia conflict continued Sexual jealousy (regulated by leader-only sex, open relationships, early marriage, assigned marriage, regulated sex) Childrearing (parents vs. commune in terms of resource allocation; parents as free riders) Lifestyle (TV violence, room decorations, etc.) Symbolic conflict (granfalloons get created and argue over trivial issues that hide underlying power struggles) Power struggle for who is in charge

24 General solutions for conflict resolution at Twin Oaks Persuasion & Compromise (Kat vs. community is a zero-sum conflict that is hard to resolve) Community decision (current approach)

25 General conflict resolution (cont). Expand economic pie (to lessen zero-sum aspect of conflict) – but how? Work harder/longer hours Change Fixed Interval schedule of reinforcement to either FR, VI, or VR* Reward innovation to create innovations that were assumed to happen by fiat in Walden II* Assign tasks on the basis of skills* Education to develop higher qualified worker* Develop more complex economy based on more complex skills* *leads to inequality

26 General conflict resolution (cont). Develop social structure that allows for individual goals to be obtained Savings accounts/retirement plans Take on more work to secure opportunities to travel, coffee, etc. Patents and other rewards for innovation Develop a “Bill of Rights” that makes clear the communities responsibility to each individual.

27 Hutterites as most effective communism regime Anabaptist community that follows the Book of Act in communistic living Economic successful: High population growth rate (due to birth rate that is higher than rate of turn-over) Surplus wealth used to create new communes High rate of productivity due to High work rate (no free riders) Innovation (from inside and outside the community)

28 Hutterite conflict resolution Religion as motivator and authority Leaders selected by God (lot) from set of qualified leaders Well-established norms* and socialization processes to encourage obedience to authority and reduce individuality Well-established social roles (types of workers) and gender roles Homogeneity of values High turn-over (50%)* Low income expectations* Family values (marriage approved by leaders) Coercive punishment (leather strap for children) Strong in-group/out-group boundaries (but does allows economic innovation to diffuse into the community) *Used by Twin Oaks

29 Examples of utopias and their fates: Nation states Ancient civilizations of Aztec, Mayan, Egyptian, Mesopotamia etc. Worship of ruler as god would bring peace and prosperity Nazi Communism (Soviet Union, China, N. Korea, Cuba plus others) Bin Laden’s Muslim Caliphate

30 Nazi: National Socialism Social Utopia: If we can just get rid of the Jews, all problems would be solved Economic Utopia National socialism was originally communism but national (Arayan) not international in scope Volkswagon Invasion of Czechoslovakia, Poland, Austria was to obtain land for superior but downtrodden Arayans National socialism morphed into kleptocracy and corporatism (corporate power approved as long it was used in support of rulers)

31 Communism as an utopia Social Utopia: If we can just get rid of capitalism and create the new Soviet, all problems would be solved Implementation of communism requires an autocratic regime, which then leads to the growth of absolute power Divergence of institutional power from resource based power

32 Utopias as a propaganda device Phantom alternatives Utopia as a solution to RD and self-threats: 1908 Springfield, IL race riot (racial purity phantom) Nazi Germany (Arayan supremacy phantom) Communist voters in 1950 in France and Italy were likely to feel frustrated that their aspirations and expectations were unfulfilled. In the 1980s, Yugoslavia suffered under mounting debt, spiraling inflation, and high unemployment, leading to Serb promotion of pure state Islamic terrorists tend to be underemployed for their level of education and feel rejected and second-class before joining their groups.[ Timothy McVey and white supremacists Scapegoat is invented to explain why phantom never comes true

33 RD leads to revolution to bring about a utopia Formula for revolution: Frustration (RD) plus leadership and propaganda to channel frustration into revolt Russian revolution: Attempts at modernization failed, leaving workers and peasants increasingly in debt Chinese revolution: Massive population growth increased poverty; little hope from treaty of Versailles which transferred German colonies to Japan

34 Why do Utopias fail when liberal democracy and capitalism succeeds? Utopian laissez-faire turns into authoritarianism Utopian authoritarianism is successful (in terms of gaining resources) to the extent that a strong leader can direct an economy effectively and still maintain power Such leaders are rare When such leaders succeed, the commune typically collapses after the death of the leader (in the subsequent power struggle) Utopian authoritarianism is not successful in terms of insuring members’ liberty No checks and balances on leadership Absolute rules created to deal with human emotions (sexual jealousy, social loafing & work load) are not flexible and thus limit liberty (e.g., perhaps not everyone want to have sex all the time with everyone or no sex or take care of others babies) Utopias lack conflict resolution devices except for authority Utopias fail to address the fundamental tension of human economic life

35 Fundamental tension in human economic life Inequality (competition) and personal responsibility are needed to motive individuals to produce, achieve, and create Inequality can create RD and perceived injustices, which leads to dreams of utopia and revolution and a failed social system The fundamental issue for a society is to create enough inequality/responsibility to insure productivity but not so much as to create revolutions

36 Liberal democracies with capitalism succeed because: Constitution and rule of law place checks and balances on power to insure liberty Constitution and rule of law provides Means of determining rulers Means of conflict resolution short of violence Free markets of capitalism: Allow formation of resources (accumulation of power) to insure productivity Provides some checks and balances on the use of this accumulated power – e.g., producers generally produce what consumers want (if they can make a profit); consumers can chose not to purchase some goods (i.e. purchase healthy and ecologically sound products if they desired these outcomes).

37 Liberal democracies through government intervention can provide Additional checks and balances on capitalism Teddy Roosevelt and trust-busting Progressive era saw the development of FTC, consumer protection laws, Interstate Commerce Commission, Food & Drug Administration, SEC, and the rise of labor unions as a check on corporate power Additional resources to spur economic development Support for education and research Support for entrepreneurship and small business Setting social priorities (JFK to the moon) Control of money supply A means of addressing social traps such as the tragedy of the commons (ignored by capitalism) Social traps occur when the behavior of an individual produces a small, immediate positive outcome but results in a larger negative outcome after a delay. Enact laws on gas mileage, fat content of food, environmental protection

38 The controversy of government intervention Democracies solve the economic tension by having enough inequality to insure competition and personal responsibility but not so much inequality to lessen creativity (no ability to develop ideas from below) and to increase the need for revolution But how to do this? Classical Liberals support capitalism and generally approve the “can” do of government Classical Conservatives also support capitalism but generally rely on free market (save for control of money supply) Extremists reject capitalism for kleptocracy with veneer of capitalism (on the right) or socialism (on the left) Neo-cons of Bush administration reject free markets and replace it with income transfer to supporters (e.g., Halliburton, Blackwater as private army, export of jobs but not prescription drugs) Communist rulers lived in luxury but the people had nothing Liberal-conservative debate produces effective policy outcomes

39 What can we learn from failed Utopias? “Human action can be modified to some extent, but human nature cannot be changed.” -- Abraham Lincoln Man’s inclination to justice makes democracy possible; but man’s capacity for injustice makes it necessary. -- Reinhold Niebuhr Christian Realism and Political Problems

40 What’s next? Explore the Stanford prison experiment as a: Replication of the autocratic treatment of Lewin et al. Understand the social processes that occur in an authoritarian regime.


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