Type of Work

Research Paper

Publication Date

Summer 8-15-2021


From the emergence of modern capitalism, people have searched for alternatives through building communal societies. The 1960s hippie movement in the United States inspired a surge of communal living, centered around non-violence and living in balance with the environment. The East Wind Intentional Community, an income-sharing egalitarian commune in Missouri, was born of this movement and still exists today, as people continuously look for ways to escape the “rat race” of mainstream society, 9-5 jobs, and economic insecurity arising from a globalized and neoliberal economic system. My research, grounded in interviews and participant observation, focuses on East Wind’s relationship with capitalism and how its members practice a less exploitative present and future for themselves. Using a constructive lens of prefigurative politics, I argue that outsiders should stop judging intentional communities with outcome-oriented frameworks and comparisons to utopia, and I advocate we instead look at the processes and relationships present in these postcapitalist systems. When looking at prefigurative politics and postcapitalism in relation, one sees that complexities and contradictions are not indicative of failure, and imperfection is inevitable. I discuss the prefigurative processes that East Winders engage with in order to live their values of autonomy and egalitarianism, the tradeoffs involved in decentralizing power, and the contradictions and complexities in management within community. I weave postcapitalist theory throughout to show how East Winders still participates in capitalism but engages in daily practices to live less exploitatively and more equally than the capitalist “status quo.” Finally, I conclude that with a prefigurative postcapitalist framework, communities such as East Wind can be realistically understood as successful, serving as a model of what is possible for the rest of American society.

Hamilton Areas of Study

Philosophy, Sociology

Hamilton Sponsoring Organization

Levitt Public Affairs Center

Hamilton Scholarship Series

Levitt Summer Research Fellowship

Hamilton Faculty Advisor

Priya Chandrasekaran