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UTOPIAN COMMUNITIES

Creating a Perfect World joins a limited number of state histories of communal utopias. For reasons suggested above and because it breaks little new ground, draws from few recent sources, and suggests no new interpretation , this book does not rise to the level of California's Utopian Colonies , the first communal study by Robert V. Hine, in Nevertheless, Rokicky's work has qualities to recommend. Archival photographs enliven the text with images of Shaker and Zoarite architecture, and illustrate the adults and children of these communities at work, school, and leisure.

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No such graphics are offered to illustrate the non-sectarian communities or their leaders. The author does take care to describe the status and role of women in the Ohio communities, which was often superior to that of women in the outside society of the times.

In all, the narrative puts the movements and communities into state and national historical context and explains their rise, beliefs, goals, organizational structures, economies, practices, difficulties, and demises. Rokicky shows how Ohio's isolated frontier, cheap land, easy access via waterways, cultural diversity, relatively tolerant atmosphere for experimentation, and friendly reception of the religious fervor of the Second Great Awakening can help to explain its attraction of religious innovators, millennialists, dissenters, and radical reformers from New England, New York's Burned-Over District, and Europe.

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American Utopias

She does not shrink from the exuberant, eccentric, and controversial founders, leaders, beliefs and practices of the Ohio communities, or the realities of outside opposition. She gives the sense of the power of utopian, millennial, and communal ideas to move native Ohioans to forsake their individualism and private capitalism--if only briefly in many cases--to embark on the difficult founding of communistic and socialistic communities under charismatic leadership, in search of a better life.

However, Rokicky does not fully assess the larger significance of the Ohio communes as social experiments, testing and defining the limits of freedom in a moderately tolerant American society that was becoming increasingly more urbanized, industrialized, and ethnically diverse.

Transcendentalist Influence

The presence of these movements have lessons to teach Americans in the post-September 11, period, that could have come through more clearly in these pages. Finally, the book's omissions, errors, and misleading impression that the attractiveness of communal reform and intentionally shared living faded after , must be addressed.

This work has lost an excellent opportunity to give readers an exhaustive listing of all the known Ohio communes of the nineteenth century. Minor errors include the mis-stating of dates. For instance, the ending date for the North Union Shakers is listed as rather than [p.

Major errors of fact include mistaking of the Harmonists' third town of Economy for their first town of Harmony in Pennsylvania, listing the name Economy twice, and giving the false and confusing impression that: "[t]hey stayed at Economy for ten years and then moved to New Harmony, Indiana.

After a decade at New Harmony, they sold their land to socialist Robert Owen, [ The Rappites then returned to Economy, [ It is difficult to imagine that a scholarly treatment of the communal phase of Owenism could fail to mention that Robert Owen's temporary adoption of the communal method of organizing his socialist movement resulted from his learning of the economic success of the Shaker and Harmonist communities, that his millennialism differed markedly from theirs, that Owen's intent to produce human happiness worldwide can be treated without using his own utopian term "the New Moral World" , that he can be said to have purchased rather than the actual buildings in Harmonist New Harmony, Indiana, and that William Maclure can be wrongly labeled a teacher--when he was actually Owen's partner in the New Harmony venture.

Maclure, in fact, brought the famous scientists and teachers to New Harmony, and created great interest in this first Owenite experiment, which many viewed as a center for progressive education and scientific discovery pp. Rokicky is right to suggest that "[t]he combination and intensity of religious, reform, and utopian activity was unique to the nineteenth century" p.

But she is wrong to leave the impression that people in Ohio and across the nation did not retain the experimental urge to improve their lives, that would lead thousands again and again to try the generic communal method of social change, and to experience warm fellowship and security in intentional communities throughout the twentieth century, to the present day. Evidence of a continuing tradition of communal experiments is far too great for this book to have repeated the same misjudgment of much earlier historians[5], in stating that: "American individualism, economic realities, and lack of leadership were forces too difficult to overcome, and the utopias ceased to exist " p.

In reality, people in Ohio today host numerous intentional communities based on a myriad of secular and religious ideologies and cooperative economies--from Catholic religious orders, retirement centers, and co-housing units, to land trusts and eco-villages. One regrets that this volume falls short of being the much needed history of communal utopias in Ohio and that it does not fulfill its dust jacket promise to provide "students, scholars, and the interested public with a new, fuller picture of the development of Ohio life. See Karl J.


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  • Religion, Society, and Utopia in Nineteenth-Century America.
  • Citation: Donald E. All, he argues, were inspired by Ann Lee, who preached that salvation lay in creating heaven on earth. America in the opening decades of the 19th century appealed as never before to those with utopian aspirations, noble and ignoble alike. The result is a triumph of scholarship and narration: five stand-alone community studies and a coherent, often spellbinding history of the United States during its tumultuous first half-century.

    Of the five communities, the Fourierists at Brook Farm, in Massachusetts, arguably enjoyed the greatest success. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Margaret Fuller, among others, found encouragement there for their critique of industrialization. Then, as now, such luminaries surely bestowed intellectual heft and perhaps an air of respectability on what — essentially — were radical separatist movements.

    Jennings clearly prefers Aristotle and John Stuart Mill. Probably for the best, he leaves readers to puzzle over the psychological roots of American utopianism. Although never less than evenhanded, and sometimes deliciously wry, Jennings writes with obvious affection for his subjects.