Thursday, December 26, 2013

How Communitarian Culture Changes the World: the example of Co-Housing

In Norway we have the largest immigration numbers of Europe, so industry and the state tell we need to build thousands of new dwellings. At the same time we have the largest per person square metres of dwelling space in the world. The answer is therefore not more houses, but co-housing.

Excerpted from Allen Butcher:

“Developing a process for creating intentional community, whether from no pre-existing organization or by transforming an existing religious or any social organization, is the process called in this writing, “intentioneering.” People simply come up with ideas on how they would like to live, often based upon existing successful communitarian movements, then make agreements on processes that support and perpetuate their desired lifestyle.

In community, people essentially remove their consent to participate in the dominant culture and deliberately place their consent upon a set of cultural agreements by which they desire to live, thereby creating a parallel culture to that of the dominant culture. If that process results in a group of people living in close proximity, an intentional community is created, which then goes through its own developmental process. The model of community developed may eventually fail to sustain itself and dissolve back into the dominant culture, or may prove long-lasting in its one location, or it may inspire an entirely new communitarian movement in many locations. For an example of the latter, consider the cohousing community movement begun in Denmark and now spreading around the world.

Cohousing community today is the best example of a successful cultural innovation developed through the intentional communities movement. In fact, the term “cohousing” is becoming so popular that it is being loosely used in place of the term “intentional community,” like an eponym similar to “Xerox copy” in place of “photocopy,” and “Kleenex” in place of “tissue.”

As cohousing community utilizes the gifting of member’s personal time and talents to their community for food service, child and eldercare, health services, gardening, maintenance, recreation, and other activities formerly done through the monetary system, the practice of mutual aid in cohousing community provides one of the best examples of how intentional communities address the anguish of our age, through enabling and encouraging people to understand and to live as though we are not alone in our struggles for survival, rather that we are all in this together.

It is in community that people create the culture of their choice, and thereby change the world.”

Allen Butcher continues with other examples:

“There are a number of factors which make intentional communities fertile environments for innovations of all kinds, from interpersonal and group relationship patterns to technological inventions.

The list of utilitarian inventions in community begins with Dolores Hayden’s identification of three strengths of the collective, which typically include,

… a high level of education, group support for unusual ideas, and rotation of jobs to encourage recognition of analogous design problems. (Hayden 1976, p. 197)

Hayden provides the following list of inventions in intentional community (in many cases other inventors originated similar ideas):

• circular saw – Tabitha Babbit, a Shaker at Watervliet, Ohio (who recognized that putting teeth on a spinning wheel used to make yarn would cut wood)

• removable window sashes for easy cleaning, round ovens for even cooking, conical stoves for heating irons – Shakers

• rotary web press and stereotyping devices – Josiah Warren, Modern Times, Long Island, NY

• repeating rifle – Jonathan Browning, Mormon

• animal traps – Sewell Newhouse, Oneida Community (became a community business which evolved into the manufacture of Oneida silverware)

• lazy susan (tables fitted with a spinable surface so that food may be turned rather than passed) – Oneida Community

• institutional potato peeler, washing machine and mop wringer – Oneida Community (devised by carpenters who, due to the community policy of job rotation to areas in which they would not otherwise work, applied their skills to finding ways to make that work efficient and enjoyable) (Hayden 1976, pp. 24-5, 198)

The Shakers in particular were very inventive, among their innovations being a machine for cutting metal nails, a lathe, flat broom, clothes pin, brimstone match, and a water turbine propeller (or screw propeller). The Shaker round barns are very distinctive, they developed and produced many medicinal herb remedies, and their utilitarian furniture designs have become valuable Shaker antiques. The best source on Shaker innovations is E. D. Andrews’ books, The People Called Shakers and The Community Industries of the Shakers. (Oved, p. 52; see also Berry, p. 38)

The Kibbutz movement in Israel invented drip irrigation for dry-land agriculture, and presumably originated many other inventions in their plastic factories. Members of East Wind Community in Missouri invented a sandal made from polypropelene twisted-fiber rope called the “Utopian Sandal,” and the community freely offers it as a handcraft or cottage business to anyone interested, with each producer originating their own product name. Undoubtedly, there are many other enduring inventions made in community for which documentation may yet become available.”

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