Paradise Now: The Story of American Utopianism at Mount Lebanon Shaker Village

paradise now by chris jennings book coverThe author of Paradise Now: The Story of American Utopianism -- Chris Jennings -- will be at Mount Lebanon Shaker Village August 14 for a brunch and talk. Book blurbage:

In Paradise Now, Chris Jennings tells the story of five interrelated utopian movements, revealing their relevance both to their time and to our own. Here is Mother Ann Lee, the prophet of the Shakers, who grew up in newly industrialized Manchester, England--and would come to build a quiet but fierce religious tradition on the opposite side of the Atlantic. Even as the society she founded spread across the United States, the Welsh industrialist Robert Owen came to the Indiana frontier to build an egalitarian, rationalist utopia he called the New Moral World. A decade later, followers of the French visionary Charles Fourier blanketed America with colonies devoted to inaugurating a new millennium of pleasure and fraternity. Meanwhile, the French radical Étienne Cabet sailed to Texas with hopes of establishing a communist paradise dedicated to ideals that would be echoed in the next century. And in New York's Oneida Community, a brilliant Vermonter named John Humphrey Noyes set about creating a new society in which the human spirit could finally be perfected in the image of God.

Here's a very positive NYT review of the book from earlier this year.

Mount Lebanon Shaker Village is in norther Columbia County, just over the border from Rensselaer County. The Chris Jennings event starts at 11 am on Sunday, August 14. Tickets are $75 and include brunch.

As you might know, this region was the site of the first Shaker communities in America -- the very first being the Watervliet Shaker community (on land that's now in Colonie). Influential Shaker leader Ann Lee is buried there. (The State Museum had an interesting exhibit about the Shakers not too long ago -- some of the materials are still online.)

See also: This fascinating article about the "polyamorous Christian socialist utopia" that gave birth to the Oneida Limited company, which for roughly a century made silverware in Oneida, New York from Collectors Weekly.

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