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Between God and Market: Influences of Economy and Spirit on Shaker Communal Dairying, 1830-1875

  • John E. Murray and Metin M. Coşgel


By our late-twentieth-century experience, survival of an economy seems critically dependent on well-established rights to private property and a return to labor that rewards greater effort. But that need not be so. History provides examples of microsocialist economies that, internally at least, did not use prices to allocate resources, allowed for little private property for participants, and provided a constant return to labor independent of effort. Some of these economies may even be termed “successful,” if success is taken to mean survival over several generations (Roehl 1972). If these communities survived despite their lacking the conditions generally thought necessary for success, a question worth asking is how this occurred, for we can then shed some light on what really is necessary for economic survival. The role of time is critical here, for even if the microsocialist economies examined in this article eventually became the merest shadow of their former selves, the fact that they did flourish for so long makes them a valuable counterexample and, hence, a phenomenon in need of explanation.



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