From utopia in writing to utopia in practice. A reassessment of the contribution of the Icarian communities in Iowa

Associations, late 19th-early 20th century
By Damien Rousselière

Assessing the success of utopian communities is an important issue, but one that is often reduced to mere longevity. In this paper, we build on the work of Donald E. Pitzer, using previously unpublished archives, to reassess the contribution of the Icarian communities in Corning, Iowa, that were active in the second half of the nineteenth century. This contribution is analysed from three perspectives: the flexibility of organisational rules; innovation in economic activity; and individual trajectories viewed in terms of the debate over open/closed communities, which is central to the analysis of these communities that can be viewed as utopian alternatives that would eventually assimilate into American society.

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