Intentional Families

Using pragmatist models of democracy as a two-strand entity that has to become part of our daily lives to fully function, i outline how we can design families to support the participatory strand. Following Dewey’s suggestion to evaluate “inherited institutions,” i examine the nuclear family’s implication for democratic living. There are several ways in which the nuclear family prevents deepening democracy: It reinforces hierarchy and biological bonds, prevents exposure to difference, and enables an attitude of devaluing friendship. Most importantly, it does not teach children how to seek out difference and make democracy a way of life. Dewey asks philosophers to go beyond evaluation. He calls upon us to develop experiments that can be implemented to replace existing institutions with new ones that are more in alignment with our ultimate vision. Thus, i present a potential experiment: An intentional community that is designed to be training ground for deep democracy for both children and adults. This community builds on ideas advanced by Iris Marion Young and Erin McKenna. I incorporate my own experience at Hayes Valley Farm to advance a way to safeguard diversity, which addresses some of the dangers Young and McKenna seem to assume away, particularly our human tendency to move from diversity toward homogenized groups.

The full paper is here.

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