Skip to main content Accessibility help

Productivity of a Commune: The Shakers, 1850–1880

  • Metin M. Coşgel (a1) and John E. Murray (a2)


Focusing on a religious commune known as the Shakers and utilizing the information recorded in the enumeration schedules of the U.S. manufacturing and agriculture censuses, this article estimates the productivities of Shaker enterprises and compares them with those of other producers randomly selected from the same data source. The results provide support to the contention that communes need not always suffer from reduced productivity. Shaker farms and shops generally performed just as productively as their neighbors; when differences did exist between their productivities, there are good reasons to attribute them to factors other than the organizational form.



Hide All
Andrews, Edward D.The People Called Shakers. New York: Dover Publications, 1963.
Andrews, Edward D., and Andrews, Faith. Work and Worship: The Economic Order of the Shakers. Greenwich, CT: New York Graphic Society, 1974.
Atack, Jeremy. Estimation of Economies of Scale in Nineteenth Century United States Manufacturing. New York: Garland Publishing, 1985.
Atack, Jeremy, and Bateman, Fred. To Their Own Soil: Agriculture in the Antebellum North. Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1987.
Bainbridge, William Sims. “Shaker Demographics 1840–1900: An Example of the Use of U. S. Census Enumeration Schedules.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 21, no. 4 (1982): 352–65.
Barkai, Haim. Growth Patterns of the Kibbutz Economy. Amsterdam: North Holland, 1977.
Bateman, Fred, and Weiss, Thomas. A Deplorable Scarcity: The Failure of Industrialization in the Slave Economy. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1981.
Berry, Thomas S.Western Prices Before 1861. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1943.
Bonin, John P., and Putterman, Louis. Economics of Cooperation and the Labor-Managed Economy. New York: Harwood Academic Publishers, 1986.
Bonin, John P., Jones, Derek C., and Petterman, Louis. “Theoretical and Empirical Studies of Producer Cooperatives: Will the Twain Ever Meet?Journal of Economic Literature 31, no. 3 (1993): 12901320.
Brewer, Priscilla J.Shaker Communities, Shaker Lives. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1986.
Coşgel, Metin M.Religious Culture and Economic Performance: Agricultural Productivity of the Amish, 1850–1880.” this JOURNAL 53, no. 2 (1993): 319–31.
Coşgel, Metin M.Market Integration and Agricultural Efficiency of Communal Amana.” Communal Societies 14, (1994): 3648.
Coşgel, Metin M., Miceli, Thomas J., and Murray, John E.. “Organization and Distributional Equality in a Network of Communes: The Shakers.” American Journal of Economics and Sociology 56, no. 2 (1997): 129–44.
Ely, Richard T.The Labor Movement in America. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1886.
Gooden, Rosemary D.A Preliminary Examination of the Shaker Attitudes toward Work.” Communal Societies 3, (1983): 115.
Homer, Sidney, and Sylla, Richard. A History of Interest Rates (1st edn., 1963) 3rd edn., New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1991.
Kandel, Eugene, and Lazear, Edward P., “Peer Pressure and Partnerships.” Journal of Political Economy 100, no. 4 (1992): 801–17.
Robert, Keohane, and Ostrom, Elinor, eds. Local Commons and Global Interdependence: Heterogeneity and Cooperation in Two Domains. London: Sage Publications, 1995.
Murray, John E.Human Capital in Religious Communes: Literacy and Selection among Nineteenth Century Shakers.” Explorations in Economic History 32, no. 2 (1995): 217–35.
Murray, John E., and Coşgel, Metin M.. “ Between God and Market: Integration of Economy and Spirit in Shaker Communal Dairying, 1830–1875. ” Working Paper, Department of Economics, The University of Connecticut, 1997.
Murray, John E., and Coşgel, Metin M.. “Market, Religion, and Culture in Shaker Swine Production, 17881880.” Agricultural History, forthcoming.
Nordhoff, Charles. The Communistic Societies of the United States from Personal Visit and Observation. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1875.
Ostrom, Elinor. Governing the Commons: the Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990.
Putterman, Louis. “Incentives and the Kibbutz: Toward an Economics of Communal Work Motivation.” Zeitschrift für Nationalökonomie [Journal of Economics\ 43, no. 2 (1983): 157–88.
Putterman, Louis. “Effort, Productivity, and Incentives in a 1970s Chinese People's Commune.” Journal of Comparative Economics 14, no. 1 (1990): 88104.
Roehl, Richard. “Plan and Reality in a Medieval Monastic Economy: The Cictercians.” Studies in Medieval and Renaissance History 9, (1972): 83114.
Ronk, S. E.Prices of Farm Products in New York State, 1841 to 1935.” Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station Bulletin 643, Ithaca, NY, 03 1936.
Sen, Amartya. “Labor Allocation in a Cooperative Enterprise.” Review of Economic Studies 33, no. 4 (1966): 361–71.
Stein, Stephen J.The Shaker Experience in America: A History of the United Society of Believers. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1992.
U.S. Bureau of the Census. Enumeration Schedules of the Population, Agriculture and Manufacturing Censuses, Microfilm. 18501880.
Weitzman, Martin, and Kruse, Douglas. “Profit Sharing and Productivity.” In Paying for Productivity: A Look at the Evidence, edited by Blinder, Alan S., 95141. Washington, DC: Brookings, 1990.


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed