Historical Social Research

Philip Wallmeier: Exit as Critique. Communes and Intentional Communities in the 1960s and Today [Abstract]

While social scientists have traditionally confined their attention to practices of critique modelled on collective, publicly visible speech acts, this article draws attention to practices of critique which take the form of individual, private, and mute acts of withdrawal. First, drawing on the pragmatic sociology of critique and its conceptualization of different “orders of worth,” it is argued that communards and inhabitants of intentional communities in the 1960s and today practice critique by withdrawing from conventional arenas of political participation and social interactions. Critique is performed through withdrawal because all legitimate channels towards the broad public appear blocked or useless. Second, this study points out differences within this “exit variety of critique” between the two time-periods. The transgressive withdrawal of communards in the 1960s was a radical critique of mainstream society and its values. In contrast, today’s communards withdraw from conventional arenas of social interactions to live in ways which more consistently put into practice their beliefs and hence practice a reformist critique of mainstream society’s unsustainability and individualism.

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