Anthropologists Intrigued by Hutterites' Ability
to Sustain Communal Societies
Aksamit, Nichole. "Anthropologists Intrigued by Hutterites' Ability to Sustain Communal Societies." Forum, 15 November 1999, sec. A9.
The modest women of Spring Prairie Colony
share a quiet moment in the early morning sun on a trailer behind
a tractor headed for a cucumber field northwest of Hawley, Minnesota.
As one of the oldest surviving communal societies, Hutterites have
long been a source of fascination for cultural anthropologists like
"What is it in their society that seems to be working and
seems to be creating such a strong sense of satisfaction?"
asks Kloberdanz, a North Dakota State University anthropologist
who has been studying Hutterites for more than two decades.
"When I ask what is their secret to success, almost always
they say they owe it to God."
Kloberdanz says Hutterites' unwavering faith and virtual isolation
from society are two reasons they have been able to preserve their
way of life for so long.
"In a sense, the Hutterites are a world unto themselves,"
he says. "They live miles from town in farming communities
where religion is a vital, binding force."
In the 1970's, hundreds of young Americans formed communes for
economic reasons. But in these short-lived communal societies, Kloberdanz
says, freedom was emphasized over conformity and freedom was ultimately
"It sounds fine, but it doesn't always work so well when it
comes down to weeding the garden and baking the bread," Kloberdanz
says. "The Hutterites have generations of history and experience
on their side. They've been perfecting community life for 400 years."
He says the fact that so few leave the colonies is indicative of
the impact of community life.
"A lot of Hutterites talk about the colony as an ark on the
ocean of humanity," he says. "Those who leave, I think
they find out that life is with people. You know how you can sometimes
find yourself in a big mall in a big city and be surrounded by people
and never feel so alone? That's a rude awakening for Hutterites."
"It's not like that in the colony, but it can be like that
in the outside world."
Reprinted with permission of The Forum