Re: intentional comm...

Thu, 8 Sep 1994 01:49:32 +0000

> writes:
>I have seen a couple of postings now concerning Intentional Communities.
>I would be interested to know what an Intentional Community is. If it is
>something basic to anthropology that I have simply not managed to run
>across I apologize in advance.
>I have usually seen "intentional community" applied to what used
>to be called "utopian communities"; i.e., Oneida, Shakers,
>Walden II, Metlakatla (secular, religious, fictional and real). I
>haven't seen it extended to the Internet, but it is an interesting
>idea -- certainly some writings about the electronic highway have
>an Utopia feel. As the label includes many different kinds of
>things, the student who started this series of comments might
>wish to specify his interests more narrowly -- philosophic,
>ethnographic, historical?
>John Barker, UBC

Though the term "intentional community" now seems to be applied to what
once might be called "utopian communities" (the term I used for WJA) or, in
the 60s, "hippie communes," it is a term with a somewhat more specific
meaning. People who live in intentional communities are living (what they
consider to be) intentionally, e.g., the people who are accepted to live in
the communities are chosen by various criteria, namely what they can
contribute to the community, how well they mesh with its direction and
philosophy, etc. Thus, intentional communities are distinguished from
"accidental" communities (e.g. where you and I live), namely places where
people do not choose their neighbors (although obviously all sorts of other
selection pressures, e.g. property values, exist...) on any conscious
Clearly, most intentional communities are Utopian. Most are also New
Agey, vegetarian, communistic, etc. They do seem to get a lot of press in
the Utne Reader. Apparently, you are not living consciously if you do not
live in an intentional community. BTW, though this has nothing to do with
the above, I just read recently that China is getting a lot of heat for
enforcing mandatory organ donation, esp. from prisoners. Considering this
is one of the premises/mandates of Amitai Etzioni's communitarian
movement... well, I don't want to start any flame wars...
Is the Internet an intentional community? IMHO, probably only "elite"
lists where you have to meet some sort of "litmus" test to join in on the
conversation fall into that category. Canter & Siegal, et al., proves
there's plenty of unintentionality out there...

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