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Thread: The Modern Utopian: Alternative Communes of the '60s and '70s

  1. Default The Modern Utopian: Alternative Communes of the '60s and '70s

    This is the first page from an article on AlterNet,that talks about the "Utopians".In todays world,the many communes and different life styles that were experimented on in the 60s and 70s were just the latest manifestations of that search for a better world.This article has reference to several communes that I have visited,and I have also lived in semi-communal situations,so I will try to add my short observations to what looks to be a great book for those interested.

    Vision: Modern Utopians -- Revisiting the Amazing Communes and Alternative Societies of the '60s and '70s

    An excerpt from Fairfield's new book on the living alternatives that helped define the greatest cultural explosion in American history.
    December 29, 2010 |

    The following is an adapted excerpt from the preface and chapter three of The Modern Utopian: Alternative Communes of the '60s and '70s, by Richard Fairfield (Process Media, 2010).

    From the foreward by Timothy Miller: The countercultural communes are the quiet giants of the 1960s, receiving far less attention than the politics, sex, drugs, and rock and roll, even though they helped define the era. There were thousands--probably tens of thousands--of them, and hundreds of thousands of young counterculturists lived in one commune or another at some point.

    It was a period in which huge numbers of young Americans rejected the traditional American way of greed-based and emotionally isolated living and searched for a new life path that embodied sharing, mutual caring, and openness. Although not all communes achieved their idealistic goals, their very existence represented a yearning of the human spirit for something better than the status quo and a courageousness to act upon these convictions with direct action and sustained efforts.

    Communes have a history in the United States much older than the 1960s-era counterculture. One might define a commune as a group of like-minded persons who withdraw from the dominant culture and seek to create a micro-culture in which people live together and share resources while striving for common goals. Groups fitting that definition go back centuries. Many historians identify the first American commune as Plockhoy's Commonwealth, or Swanendael, which was established at what is now Lewes, Delaware, by a group of Dutch Mennonites in 1663. Other similar experiments followed; a century later the Shakers began to develop what became an interconnected group of 20 or so villages that constituted one of the largest and longest-lived communal movements in history. The nineteenth century saw the founding of many substantial communal movements, including the Harmony Society, the Amana Colonies, and the Oneida Perfectionists. The communes of that era were a diverse lot: alongside the many Christianbased ones were enclaves based in Spiritualism (which claims that we can communicate with the dead) and other innovative religious movements. There were also a great many secular communes--socialist and anarchist ones, to name just two of the many varieties. As would be the case in the 1960s era, the communal scene of the nineteenth century was richly varied.

    There was no precise beginning to the communes of the 1960s era; they emerged organically from the many communes and communal movements that had gone before. Communes dedicated to radical political activism, to mystical spiritual pursuits, to self-sufficient living, and to liberated sexual behaviors all existed long before the appearance of the 1960s counterculture. But things began to change in the early '60s. Two open-land communes, from which no one would be turned away, had appeared by 1963. Informal communities whose members explored inner space with newly available psychedelic drugs developed on the east and west coasts at about the same time. Interest in Asian religions was beginning to stir among young spiritual seekers in the early '60s, and new ashrams began to show up. In Detroit a commune with its own rock band was combining cuttingedge arts with political activism as early as 1964.

    All of these new and tentative probings into innovative social structures were pointing the way toward a new wave of communes by 1965, when Drop City suddenly appeared on the southern Colorado plains and attracted both visitors and publicity. The original Droppers--Clark Richert, Gene Bernofsky, and Jo Ann Bernofsky--were visual artists who met in Lawrence, Kansas, and took their creativity in unconventional directions. Eventually they decided to start their own new civilization, and on a six-acre goat pasture began to build wonderfully unconventional structures--domes constructed from scrap lumber and covered with car tops cut out of junkyard relics. The crazy-quilt domes were pictured in magazines from coast to coast. Something new was clearly going on, whether American society was ready for it or not.

    For the rest of this great article you can go to AlterNet at the link HERE
    "You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
    Buckminster Fuller

  2. #2


    Ah, in so many ways..."those were the days" least speaking for myself!
    If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” - Frederick Douglass
    "Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
    "Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn

  3. #3


    theatre dome. drop city.......
    Attached Images Attached Images

  4. Default

    The article above puts it's focus on Wheelers Ranch.To me you must also add Morningstar Ranch into this,because they were basically synonymous.These counterculture experiments(open land movement)were met with fierce intervention by County officials,and were finally bulldozed.There are wonderful stories,and a lot of great old pictures in the links provided.And yes,these were the days.....

    Morningstar, Wheeler's and the Free Land Movement

    North of San Francisco, across the mythic Golden Gate inlet, lay the rolling hills of Marin and Sonoma counties, golden in summer, verdant in winter. For many of the Haight's denizens, suffering burnout, ennui or police heat, the siren call of the North drew their embattled souls to the land of the red-tailed hawk and live oak shrub. Morningstar was the first refuge with an open land policy. Founded by Lou Gottlieb, a former member of the folk-singing trio Limeliters, Morningstar was known as the "digger farm" in the Haight, supplying apples and other organic fruits and vegetables to the Free Food programs.

    Check out the websites below for much more on Morningstar and Wheeler.
    "You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
    Buckminster Fuller

  5. #5


    I'm loving this Keith. I spent many a happy time on similar communes here.
    "I think it would be a good idea." Mahatma Gandhi, when asked what he thought of Western civilization.

    The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.
    Karl Marx.

    "Well, he would, wouldn't he?" Mandy Rice-Davies, 1963, replied Ms Rice Davies when the prosecuting counsel pointed out that Lord Astor denied an affair or having even met her.

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