Attempted Utopian Society Brook Farm

About the attempted utopian society Brook Farm founded by George Ripley, history, population, economic and social structure.

Name of Utopia: BROOK FARM

Founder: George Ripley (1802-1880). After embracing the ideals of transcendentalism, George Ripley, a Unitarian minister, began Brook Farm in the hope of creating an ideal civilization where the labor and social machinery needed for existence might be reduced to a minimum to permit maximum time for spiritual and mental development.

The need for financial aid and reform, and the influence of F.M.C. Fourier's doctrines, as advocated by Arthur Brisbane and Horace Greeley, prompted Ripley to convert Brook Farm into a Fourierist phalanx 3 years after its inception.

Where and When: On a tract of land purchased by Ripley about 10 mi. from Boston in West Roxbury, Mass. The experiment lasted from 1841 to 1847.

Population: Brook Farm, which began with a scant 20 members, had nearly 200 inhabitants at the time of its collapse.

Political and Social Structure: Brook Farm was formally organized with the signing of articles of association and the formation of a joint-stock company. Members paid for their board by laboring on the farm, though income for the community was derived from the school, which came to be considered among the finest of the day.

George Ripley served as the community's manager, overseeing both the school and the farm. There was, however, a minimal amount of political and social structure at Brook Farm because transcendentalist Ripley and his followers believed that a person's power resided within, and that the individual, not God or the external environment, had the power to create a better world.

As a result, Brook Farm, more than any other utopian experiment in American history, gained the respect of the nation's intellectuals. Nathaniel Hawthorne became one of its charter members, and later wrote a novel, The Blithedale Romance, based on his experience at the farm. Visitors included Henry James, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Margaret Fuller, all of whom came away impressed with Ripley's experiment.

In 1844 the structure of Brook Farm changed radically with the adoption of Fourierism by Ripley. The community became centralized through the organization of phalansteries, which banded together individuals into specialized production groups called series. The once highly individualistic cooperative became a community cooperative with the formation of, for example, the cattle series, the education series, and the amusement series.

Property and Distribution of Goods: From the beginning Brook Farm was a cooperative, not a communistic, colony. Arising out of its transcendental philosophy came the belief that the individual had a right to private property. Hence, it did not attack, as did many other communal experiments, private ownership, the organized state, the church, or the family. To this end the articles of association declared that "real estate purchased by the Association in pursuance of these articles shall be made to the Trustees, their successors in office or survivors as joint tenants, and not as tenants in common."

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