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Kibbutz: Survival at Risk

Eliezer Ben-Rafael
Israel Studies
Vol. 16, No. 2 (Summer 2011), pp. 81-108
Published by: Indiana University Press
DOI: 10.2979/israelstudies.16.2.81
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Page Count: 28
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Kibbutz: Survival at Risk
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ABSTRACT For one hundred years, the kibbutz was an undisputed model of an agricultural and industrial collective that implemented sharing, equality, and direct democracy among its members. Since the mid-1980s, however, the majority of the kibbutzim have undergone far-reaching changes that re-examine basic premises. Observers ask whether this means that the kibbutz is gone forever. The article confronts this question on the basis of references to recent sociological investigations. It indeed appears that renewal has helped many kibbutzim from a sudden threat of economic and demographic catastrophe. As the analysis shows, this danger was escaped by abandoning patterns sanctified by decades of practice that were the very markers of kibbutz life. Yet, we also observe that the notion of ““kibbutz”” is still pertinent for describing that reality. At the same time, we also acknowledge that kibbutzim today represent a society at risk——not so much because of a threatening environment, but due to their dependence on themselves and their members. More than ever, the kibbutz experience is in the hands of its membership, and this singularizes both the uniqueness and the vulnerability of the kibbutz. One can easily find in these assessments a probléématique that is significant for analyzing any pluralistic reality.

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