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Doing Business in Utopia: An Analysis of Entrepreneurship in Three Intentional Communities, 1967-1979 Open Access

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This dissertation offers an in-depth history of three communities—Soul City, Stelle and Twin Oaks—with an emphasis on their financing, marketing and entrepreneurship processes. The selected time period begins during the boom of the communal movement in 1967, when Twin Oaks was founded, and follows through to the end of the 1970s, when the economy experienced an unprecedented period of stagflation, which deeply impacted the communities’ movement and the businesses they began. It is a historical project, relying on numerous archival sources to offer an in-depth look at three communities and the various issues they faced. This dissertation challenges two common narratives about communes in existing historical literature about the 1960s and 1970s. First, it illustrates that communes were often not wildly unrealistic and juvenile escapes from political life. Rather the communes in this study were highly structured, with detailed membership policies, sophisticated plans about labor arrangements, debates about sustainable economic models, and pragmatic relationships with the public sector. Secondly, the dissertation challenges the dichotomous innocent/utopian “before” and coopted/pragmatic “after” narrative that often characterizes declension narratives about communes in the 1960s and 1970s. While it is a story of slow accommodation with the state, surrounding communities and enterprise, this dissertation also demonstrates that from their inception communes negotiated pragmatically in order to grow and stabilize their community.

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