History of American Socialisms

In the 1840s, a wave of intentional communities spread across America. Most of them collapsed within a year or two, as has been the story of most attempts at communal living in any context.

One of the longest-lasting was Oneida. It was based around the principles of Free Love and Mutual Criticism, and its inhabitants spend their days making knives. The founder, John Humphrey Noyes, had apparently taken some care in finding the right system.

In the process he wrote a book, a history of American socialisms. Based in part on a survey of communes, it was his attempt to figure out what system might lead a community to survive:

This country has been from the beginning, and especially for the last forty years, a laboratory in which Socialisms of all kinds have been experimenting. It may safely be assumed that Providence has presided over the operations, and has taken care to make them instructive. The disasters of Owenism and Fourierism have not been in vain ; the successes of the Shakers and Rappites have not been set before us for nothing. We may hope to learn something from every experiment.

Written on May 8, 2021