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America's Utopian Communities: From Plymouth Colony's Failed Experiments in Collective Farming to 60s Hippie Communes—Timothy Miller

February 06, 2018
00:00 42:23
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One of the oldest traditions in America is trying (and failing) to set up a utopian community. French Enlightenment thinkers such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau believed if man could return to a state of nature – free from social conditioning that put him in conflict with his neighbor – then a new, perfect social order could emerge. This sounds like hopefully wishful thinking today, but in the context of the 1800s, a utopian community really wasn't all that far fetched. The French Revolution failed, but the equally radical American Revolution succeeded. If a country could rule itself without a king and queen, some thought, why couldn't it rule itself without any ruler at all? Many utopian thinkers asked themselves that if one Greek form of government, democracy, could be dusted off after thousands of years on the shelf, then why not try other discarded ideas? Perhaps the time had come for Plato's vision of a utopia. From the 1830s to 1850s, charismatic leaders formed groups of 50 to 100 Europeans who followed a basic ideology or religious denomination and set up communist communities across America. Widely believed by the larger public to be sinks of drug-ridden sexual immorality, the communes both intrigued and repelled the American people. The intentional communities of the 1960s era were far more diverse than the stereotype of the hippie commune would suggest. A great many of them were religious in basis, stressing spiritual seeking and disciplined lifestyles; others were founded on secular visions of a better society. In fact, hundreds of them became so stable that they survive today.

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Meet Your Host
Meet Your Host
Scott Rank is the host of the History Unplugged Podcast and a PhD in history who specialized in the Ottoman Empire and modern Turkey. Before going down the academic route he worked as a journalist in Istanbul. He has written 12 history books on topics ranging from lost Bronze Age civilizations to the Age of Discovery. Some of his books include The Age of Illumination: Science, Technology, and Reason in the Middle Ages and History’s 9 Most Insane Rulers.. Learn more about him by going to scottrankphd.com.
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