Heartland UtopiasBook - 2009
Sutton offers a regional approach to the study of utopian movements, focusing specifically on the "heartland," which he defines to include the Old Northwest Territory, the Dakotas, and Missouri. In the number of utopian settlements, the heartland region is surpassed only by New England. Heartland Utopias provides a scholarly overview of 19th century utopian communities in the heartland from the first Shaker village near Dayton, Ohio, built in 1807, to the 1903 incorporation and ensuing stormy history of The House of David in Benton Harbor, Michigan.
During these years, charismatic individuals built three different kinds of utopias: perfectionist, whose members thought they could achieve impec-cancy almost immediately by living communally; cooperative, whose members believed that communalism would improve the moral and economic condition of its members and at the same time be the alternative to exploitative capitalism; and social and communist, whose members believed that democracy and equality could never be achieved without living in an "association," as with the socialists, or in a "community of good," as with the Icarians.
While these communities have individually been the topics of past studies, Sutton's work is the first comprehensive examination of all of the most important heartland communities. Major emphasis, with separate chapters, is given to the following major utopian settlements: the Shakers, the New Harmony, a number of separatist communities, the Fourierist phalanxes, the Icarians, the Hutterites, and the Chicago-area utopian societies. Many of the communities that Sutton discusses still exist today. American historians, regional historians, and students of utopian and communal studies will be interested in this well-organized and readable survey.