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Book Review: Kibbutz: Venture in Utopia

Melford E. Spiro's book, Kibbutz: Venture in Utopia, is a "case study in the possibilities of social cooperation" (ix). Spiro spent eleven months in the early 1950's living among the residents of a place he refers to by the fictitious name Kiryat Yedidim, a kibbutz, or collective, in Isr'l, founded by a group of young Polish-Jewish immigrants in the early 20th century. The book examines the history of the kibbutz as well as presenting the current occupants' daily lives and philosophies in great detail. This research will summarize Spiro's book, focusing in particular on family structures and family life within the kibbutz system.

Kibbutzim (the plural of kibbutz) are cooperative agricultural villages. The word "cooperative" here is meant quite literally--in these communities, all property, with minor exceptions, such as personal gifts, is community owned. This means that even the clothes the chavarim (residents; singular chaver) wear do not belong to them as individuals. Early in the history of the settlement, in fact, this philosophy was taken to such an extreme that after laundering, clothes were redistributed by having each chaver take whatever was on the top of the pile, even though this usually meant that the clothes were too large or too small (21). Although this particular situation has since been rectified by assigning particular items of clothing to each chaver, the clothing is merely considered his or her personal responsibility, not personal property.

Because material goods, housing, and food are owned by the community and distributed equally among the chaverim, money is unnecessary, and chaverim do not receive wages for their labor. The only money chaverim receive, in fact, is a small annual vacation allowance which will allow them to pay for goods or services they might wish to purchase on their stays outside the kibbutz (20).

Because money is not a factor in kibbutz society and food and housing are pr...

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