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Plow creek: Commune or neighborhood?

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Knox College

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  1. Introduction
  2. Analysis of Kanter's research
  3. Investment and irreversibility as two important policies
  4. Understanding negative community attitude
  5. Plow Creek's group cohesiveness
  6. Worldliness and Plow Creek life
  7. Plow Creek's lackadaisical attitude
  8. Conclusion
  9. Works cited

The Plow Creek community has gone through significant changes in the past 20 years or so. In the 28 years of her residence, Louise Stahnke has seen a lot of them. She saw the shaming and exile of a community leader who, as she put it, abused the ?sexual and financial trust? that residents placed in him [Stahnke 2007]. In 1988, she saw the community stop making decisions communally, after that practice ?crashed and burned.? These two factors alone could have wiped out Plow Creek entirely?-Bishop Hill, after all, was wounded by the death of its leader, and it could be argued that a commune that doesn't make decisions communally is hardly a commune at all. According to Kanter's [1972] research into how successful communities got their members to commit to communal life, Plow Creek is in deep trouble as an intentional community.

[...] Their website has a page for each family, complete with factoids about their kids' individual hobbies and how they came to Plow Creek. According to Kanter, ?groups with any degree of identity or stability face the issue of intimacy and exclusive attachments and set limits on how much and what kinds are permissible or desirable [Kanter 1972: Plow Creek's approval of devotion to other relationships than those with the whole community has proven inimical to other communal societies. This leniency is evident elsewhere. Plow Creek allows all sorts of individuality in its members that doomed previous communities. [...]

[...] No modern, non-communal person would find it unreasonable that girl would rather get paid by KFC than donate 30 hours of her week to unpaid community work, or that boy would rather join little league than weed a strawberry field: it may be that the majority of Plow Creek's residents don't see the commune's decline in communalism as a problem. Plow Creek's lackadaisical attitude towards commitment these days makes it hard to call it a commune. However, weak commitment for a commune is still strong commitment for a regular neighborhood. [...]

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