Abstract

The first kibbutz, founded in 1910 as a modern Jewish egalitarian community, strove to fulfill democratic and egalitarian principles. Though gender equality was never fully implemented in the kibbutzim, from the 1920s on it nevertheless became a central principle of this classless society—largely as a result of kibbutz women's collective action. Since the 1980s, however, the kibbutz as an institution has been in the throes of a dramatic crisis as it adapts to neo-liberalism, a process that can be seen as one of de-institutionalization of social equality.

In this paper, I shall examine what is happening to women in light of these dramatic changes. In the first section, I shall describe the impact of neo-liberalism on the kibbutz. My assumption is that here, as elsewhere, neo-liberalism is a mixed blessing for men and women alike, in that it creates new regimes of social inclusion and exclusion, institutionalizing new avenues to prestige and/or power and/or economic resources while weakening traditional ones.

Next, I describe the mixed blessing brought specifically to women by this process. As far as economic rewards, power and prestige are concerned, men are overrepresented among the "winners" in the neo-liberal process, while women are overrepresented among the "losers."

In the last section, I discuss why kibbutz women nowadays do not mobilize for collective action and largely take a pragmatic, individualistic attitude toward managing their lives. This analysis refers to three interrelated factors: (1) The community's historical gendered division of labor; (2) its social construction of motherhood and masculinity; and (3) the long fight of kibbutz women for autonomy in the private sphere.

In conclusion, I argue that for those who still dream of living in an "alternative community" in the global era, the issue of gender equality needs to be re-invented on the path to Utopia.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1565-5288
Print ISSN
0793-8934
Pages
pp. 102-122
Launched on MUSE
2007-06-04
Open Access
No
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