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.


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 102-122
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.