The Communal Idea in the 21st Century


The idea of a better society as associated with the communal idea is investigated from both theoretical perspectives and through contemporary experiences around the world. This idea leaves nobody indifferent. Whatever the hardship that its concretization implies, however, once it does materialize, it cannot, as such avoid new challenges, tensions and unexpected claims. This means, at varying degrees, negations of, and removals from, the “utopian inspiration”. Humans are able to create unprecedented conditions of life under most ambitious inspirations, but are unable to safeguard their achievements from change, alterations and contradictions. In this, however, another aspect of the utopian realizations is that they ultimately leave room for new utopist thinking and enrolment. As far, indeed, the utopian inspiration draws its vitality from potent civilizational codes, its renewal from ashes is as unavoidable as its self-betrayal through materialization.

Contributors included: Eliezer Ben-Rafael, Rami Degany, Amitai Etzioni, Maria Fölling-Albers, Yiftah Goldman, Ruth Kark, Yossi Katz, John Lehr, Graham Meltzer, Bill Metcalf, Timothy Miller, Yaacov Oved, Michal Palgi, Donald E. Pitzer, Shulamit Reinharz, Lyman Tower Sargent, György Széll, Menachem Topel, Katherine Trebeck, and Chris Warhurst.

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Eliezer Ben-Rafael was a member of Kibbutz Hanita for 20 years. He is a Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Tel-Aviv University and is Past President of the International Institute of Sociology. He received the Landau Prize for Life Achievements in Sociology. His works include Jewish Identities (Leiden: Brill, 2001), Is Israel One? (Leiden: Brill, 2005), The Kibbutz on Ways Apart (Jerusalem: Mossad Bialik and Yad Tabenkin, 2009 - Hebrew), Ethnicity, Religion and Class in Israel, (Cambridge, N.Y.: Cambridge University Press, paperback re-print 2007).

Yaacov Oved has been a member of Kibbutz Palmachim ever since its establishment in 1949. He is a professor emeritus in Tel Aviv University’s department of history, and a research fellow of Yad Tabenkin. Since 1980 he has engaged in research of communes throughout the world, and has published books and articles on this subject in Hebrew, English and Spanish. He was one of the founders of the International Communal Studies Association in 1985, and served as its president until 2004.

Menachem Topel, member of Kibbutz Mefalsim in Israel, is a senior lecturer at the Ashkelon Academic College and at the Sapir Academic College, head of the Social Studies Department at Yad Tabenkin, the Institute for Research on the Kibbutz and member of the Board of ICSA (International Communal Studies Association). His latest publications in English are papers on the kibbutz elites and kibbutz transformations, and so are his books The New Managers: The Kibbutz Changes his Way and The Kibbutz on Paths Apart (with Eliezer Ben-Rafael) and The Kibbutz: Risks of Survival (Eliezer Ben-Rafael with Menachem Topel, Shlomo Getz and Arza Abrahami).
In addressing the communal life, the readings focus on theoretical perspectives, challenges, multisided praxis, and some detailed analysis of the kibbutz system. Researchers interested in the communal idea will find this collection not only informative but also thought provoking. Summing up: Highly recommended.
P.J. Venturelli, Choice, May 2013, Vol. 50, No. 9
List of contributors
Introduction: A Difficult Question, Eliezer Ben-Rafael, Yaacov Oved and Menachem Topel


1. General Thoughts about the Communal Idea, Amitai Etzioni

2. Developmental Communalism into the Twenty-First Century, Donald E. Pitzer

3. Theorizing Intentional Community in the Twenty-First Century, Lyman Tower Sargent

4. Contemporary Communalism at a Time of Crisis, Graham Meltzer

5. Commune and Community: a Socialist Perspective, Yiftah Goldman


6. Communes and Communities: History and Perspective, Yaacov Oved

7. Historical Perspectives on Participation, György Széll

8. Community: Greatly Needed but Hard to Achieve, Timothy Miller

9. Communal Aspects of Contemporary Life, Shulamit Reinharz

10. In the Collective Interest: Job Quality, Chris Warhurst and Katherine Trebeck


11. The Communal Idea in 21st Century Australia and New Zealand, Bill Metcalf

12. Renewing Traditional Communality, Menachem Topel

13. Christian and Messianic Jews’ Communes in Israel: Past, Present and Future, Rami Degani and Ruth Kark

14. Gender, Power and Equality: Women’s Roles in Hutterite Society, Yossi Katz and John C. Lehr


15. The Reciprocal Relationship between Feminism and Communal Life, Michal Palgi

16. Kibbutz Education: Characteristics, Changes and Future Relevance, Maria Fölling-Albers

17. Kibbutz: Survival at Risk, Eliezer Ben-Rafael

Students, researchers and practitioners of communes, intentional communities and social movements all over the world. Individuals interested by the feasibility and challenges of utopian schemes. Social scientists investigating the emergence of "normal" life from within ambitious social projects.
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