Tuesday, 15 October 2013


ISBN-10: 0-253-18064-3
Writer: Raymond Lee Muncy
Title: Sex and Marriage in Utopian Commmunities
Subtitle: 19th-Century America
Introduction: Robert H. Rimmer
Language: English
Place of Publication: Bloomington, London
Publisher: Indiana University Press
Year of Publication: 1973
Format: 145x220mm
Pages: 275
Illustrations: one black and white picture of the writer on the back dust jacket
Binding: cloth in duotone dust jacket designed by Guy Fleming
Weight: 678gr.
Original Price: USD 10.00
Entry No.: 2013035
Entry Date: 15th October 2013


Nearly two thousand communes now flourish, their members presumably seeking to escape from the traditional life style of the nuclear family. A similar path was traveled a century ago by utopian idealists who also chose to separate themselves from society to achieve an ideal. Like modern communes, those of the nineteenth century varied in their purposes, ideals, and sexual arrangements. Mr. Muncy concentrates on those that were original or unique in their approach to sex and marriage.

Three basically different types of utopian community were founded in America during the nineteenth century: (1) the sectarian communities inspired by a common desire for the good life on earth, but particularly for eternal life; (2) the reform communities, which attempted to lead the world to a perfect order through the application of reform principles on a small scale,a nd which trusted others, and eventually the whole world to follow their example; and (3) the purely economic cooperatives, which sought to alleviate the distresses of their members by combining their resources apart from the harsh competition of capitalism.

The majority of the utopian communities – including those founded by Robert Owen, Charles Fourier, and Etienne Cabet –attempted to maintain the separate family unit, sometimes adding a  communal dining hall, but found the exclusiveness of the family a problem. Several religious communities where continence was practiced –the Shakers, Rappites, Zoarites, and Jansonists among them–were more successful in maintaining a communal arrangement. The Mormons adopted polygyny, propounding the doctrine of “celestial marriage” to bolster their practice with theology. The Perfectionists at Oneida adopted a system, of complex marriage wherein each was married to all others of the opposite sex in the community. Some communities practiced free love, others made sexual orgies occasions of divine worship.

Generally, Mr. Muncy finds that communities were forced either to modify or abandon the monogamous nuclear family if they were to last for long. A fascinating piece of American social history that is exhaustive, objective, and informative.

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