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Utopian communities of the mid-1800s

Dramatic economic and social changes caused by the industrial revolution in early XIX century necessarily resulted in shifts of popular consciousness that started to look for new answers to old questions. The process has touched the American society to the fullest extent, where mental fracture was aggravated by existence of slavery, featuring the global phenomena with typically American terms. The strive for changes called several utopian sects into existence.

Most often based on the teachings of European or American philosophers, they set the abolition of slavery as their primary purpose, and aimed to bettering human nature in longer prospective. Their core interest laid in the developing class of workers. Creating a new educated working class that would remove or at least alleviate social inequity was one of their primary goals. Based on moral, religious, philosophic and economic grounds, those groups differed mostly by their attitude towards property. Some of them like Shaker and Oneida were virtually communist, recognizing only communal, but not private property.

Others like the Northampton community established a complicated structure with some private property, yet with domination of communal property. Those groups may be considered as a kind of social experiment performed by society itself. They would not be called “utopian” in case they were able to extension and self-support, yet most of such communities collapsed shortly due to their vague economic and ideological background. Nevertheless, those groups played a considerable role in general public movement for abolition of slavery and establishing a better American society.

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