Re: economic Class and Cohousing
From: Stuart Staniford-Chen (staniforcs.ucdavis.edu)
Date: Tue, 19 Dec 1995 14:13:40 -0600
Tony Rocco writes:

> I began looking into the option of cohousing in order to find a 
> solution to the alienation of modern urban living. Since subscribing 
> to this cohousing list service, I have been more than a little 
> alienated by the leftist political rhetoric proffered by cohousing 
> types. Is it necessary to have a far left political orientation to 
> want to live in a cohousing community? 

No, certainly not.  The politics of social justice are not a major theme 
of discussion in my community and we have a wide diversity of opinions on 
the subject.  I believe we have a stated goal of income diversity (amongst 
other kinds of diversity).

> Is this reason enough to live in a cohousing arrangement or do I 
> also have to share all the other back-to-the-earth, leftist, 
> pseudo-ideologizing that I hear expressed by the cohousing advocates 
> I have heard from here? 

You like to use the word pseudo when you wish to be derogatory about 
someone elses views.  Why is it "pseudo" ideologizing just because you 
don't agree with it?

> Will I be ostracized by my fellow cohousers 
> if I drive home each day in my Mercedes Benz, am seen in $500 Armani 
> suits, and am found to have a $10,000 stereo system in my living 
> room? If it is discovered that I collect rare French wines and own a 
> cellar worth the price of a modest middle-class home?

It's a great question.  My community is one of the poorest communities 
that calls itself cohousing.  I believe that if you lived here, we 
would welcome you.  Certainly you would not be treated with the kind of 
incivility evidenced by one person on this list recently.

At the same time, I think there would be some discomfort with the level 
of conspicuous consumption you describe, and it would cause some friction.  
In trying to agree on the community budget, our common expenditures, our 
shared recreation, I suspect that your large income and your expectations 
on how to spend it would not fit well with other peoples income and 
expectations.

The stated values we have in this area mainly relate to "living lightly on 
the planet"  It doesn't seem to me that the things you describe necessarily 
go against this altogether - a $50 bottle of wine probably doesn't create 
much more environmental impact than the $4 variety.  But, of course, if you 
thought that our values in this area were "back-to-the-earth 
pseudo-ideologizing" then probably you would not enjoy living here and we 
would not enjoy having you.

In summary - certainly no-one would berate you about being a running-dog 
capitalist, but there might be some friction arising out of differing 
values and expectations around spending money.

Some other cohousing communities have higher income and expenditure, and 
less commitment to environmental values than we do.  However, I suspect that 
you would find the same problems in milder versions there too.  

Of course, there is nothing at all to stop you from creating a cohousing 
group of people with similar income levels and values to yourself.

Stuart

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