Labor System Experimentation in Egalitarian Intentional Communities

September 2022
Berghahn Journals
Social Analysis

In rural Virginia in the United States, a hub of interconnected ‘intentional communities’ (ICs) is making great strides toward egalitarian experimentations. While they come in many forms, shapes, and sizes, ICs are commonly designed around collective values that often involve shared resources and responsibilities. In these ICs, ‘egalitarianism’ is a local vernacular defined by a specific skill set that helps to make communal life work. This article explores the intense efforts invested in developing and refining that vernacular skill set—for instance, figuring out how to economically produce commodities without giving up on ideals of freedom, equality, fun, sharing, and togetherness. In the context of the Twin Oaks community, in particular, I explore how communards imagine and act in egalitarian labor, and the social tensions produced among members in the course of establishing what an ‘egalitarian person’ is, or what is considered to be ‘egalitarian’.