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Work and Sustainability at Twin Oaks Intentional Community

Monica Bhatia (University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX, USA)

Ethnographies of Work

ISBN: 978-1-83753-949-9, eISBN: 978-1-83753-948-2

Publication date: 12 December 2023


A growing body of literature suggests that creating a just sustainable society will require reorganizing economic arrangements and, in particular, rethinking work. Previous studies have recognized alternative organizations, such as cooperatives and intentional communities, as sites for building more democratic, sustainable models of work. This study contributes a description and analysis of work and sustainability at Twin Oaks Intentional Community, an 80-person income- and resource-sharing commune in Louisa, Virginia. Some measures show that Twin Oaks members live more sustainably in terms of energy consumption than the average US resident. In this article, I investigate the relationship between sustainability and work at Twin Oaks. I find that sustainable work is linked to the following key principles: broadening definitions of work, prioritizing community well-being, and democratizing decision making. In doing so, I contribute to previous literature on work, sustainability, and alternative organizations by suggesting that (1) sustainability in intentional communities is deeply intertwined with systems of work; (2) broadening definitions of work to include social reproductive labour contributes to sustainability; and (3) the democratization of work can further goals of sustainability.



Bhatia, M. (2023), "Work and Sustainability at Twin Oaks Intentional Community", Delbridge, R., Helfen, M., Pekarek, A. and Purser, G. (Ed.) Ethnographies of Work (Research in the Sociology of Work, Vol. 35), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 73-93.



Emerald Publishing Limited

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