George P. Rawick

Rappite Harmony

(Summer 1967)

From International Socialism (1st series), No.29, Summer 1967, p.38.
Thanks to Ted Crawford & the late Will Fancy.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The Communistic Societies of the United States
Charles Nordhoff
New York: Schocken Books, $2.45

A paperback republication of Nordhoff’s nineteenth-century American classical account of American religious and secular utopian communities is a welcome addition to the increasing number of volumes which at last provide the basis for a genuine social history of the United States. The author with a perverse and one-sided insight became interested in these communities because he saw them as safe alternatives to trade unions which he believed acted ‘to disorganise labour, and to alarm capital.’ But despite this orientation, he managed to present such communities as those of the Amana Society, the Rappite Harmony Society, the Separatists of Zoar, the Shakers, the Oneida and Wallingford Perfectionists, the Aurora and Bethel Communes, the Icarians, and others as centres of a living demonstration against the new industrial capitalism that had begun to cover the land. These movements await the study of an American historian with an understanding of the self-creation of the working class and of the development of a people. It is most likely that such a work would do for these communities what E.P. Thompson in The Making of the English Working Class has done for such movements as the millennial sect of the prophetess Joanna Southcott. These communities were part of the revolutionary developments of early industrial society. These were popular movements which were a step in the making of the American working class.

Last updated on 6 May 2010