Accepted Paper:

Cocreation or coercion? Tensions between individual freedom and social order in a self-organised intentional community  
Anna Kovasna (Lund University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the tensions between individual freedom and social order in a self-organised community. Examining how local social institutions are designed in attempts to safeguard freedom and cocreation, it sheds light on some of the complexities of collaborative social experiments.

Paper long abstract:

The spiritual community and ecovillage Findhorn is a 51-year old self-organised collective that includes several settlements and a network of approximately 600 people and 40 organisations. Central to the community's ideology is the idea that the inner self is the primary source of authority, direction and truth. Loving, honest and collaborative relationships with human and non-human alike are held in high regard, but external authorities and social institutions are considered potentially alienating and detrimental to the full expression of the self, as well as to humanity and the survival of the planet.

Being a community, however, necessitates some form of social order, and many local organisations also balance the emphasis on inner truth, collaboration and individual freedom with desires for efficiency and earnings. How is this paradox and ambivalent attitude to social organisation dealt with? What ensures that social institutions are based on collaboration of authentic selves rather than alienation and external authority? How is inner truth and direction safeguarded against centralised control? In short - how can the ideal of a free, cocreative and participatory society be translated into local social practice and institutions? Questions like these are constantly alive in the community, and investigating local responses shed light on some of the complexities of collaborative social design.

While based on fieldwork in the Findhorn Community, this paper also examines what insights a long-term collaborative experiment like this provides for research into other movements where autonomous agency, self-organisation, and community are considered central to social transformation.

Panel P050
Anthropologies of collective design experiments