Justin Wadland, Trying Home: The Rise and Fall of an Anarchist Utopia on Puget Sound.

Author:Pauli, Benjamin J.
Position:Book review

Justin Wadland, Trying Home: The Rise and Fall of an Anarchist Utopia on Puget Sound Corvallis, OR: Oregon State University Press, 2014; 202pp; ISBN 978-0-87071-742-0.

Justin Wadland has written an engaging account of one of the longest-lasting anarchist intentional communities in American history: the colony of Home, which endured for 25 years on the Key Peninsula of Washington State. Home was founded in 1896 by former members of the failed socialist community of Glennis, which had collapsed in part because of conflict generated by its nitpicking regulation of personal affairs. Home was conceived as a colony in which residents would enjoy the utmost individual freedom and treat one another according to a live-and-let-live philosophy. Although the colony was held together by a modicum of institutional centralisation--land was owned communally and allotted in two-acre plots by the Mutual Home Association--residents were linked mainly by a shared desire to live free of the strictures of laws, rules and regulations. The colony was envisioned, however, not simply as an opportunity to 'drop out' but as an exemplary demonstration of the possibility of realising social harmony under conditions of freedom.

The culture that prevailed at Home and the social arrangements adopted there developed out of an experimental rather than an ideological approach to social affairs. Home's founders did not set out to establish an 'anarchist' colony--or to instantiate any particular theory of social organisation for that matter--but rather to learn from and improve upon past experience. The appellation 'anarchist' was affixed initially by outsiders, who decided that it captured Home's underlying principles. Once Home's founders and early inhabitants came to embrace the label, the colony began to attract settlers with more conscious anarchist philosophies and ties to the anarchist movement: figures like Gertie Vose, a friend of Emma Goldman's whose son turned police informant after the bombing of the Los Angeles Times building in 1910, and Jay Fox, a printer and eyewitness to the Haymarket Affair who ended up fighting a free-speech battle over an article written at Home that took his case all the way to the Supreme Court.


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