Hutterites - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. The basic social unit is the colony. Colonies are communal organizations where equality and the meeting of group rather than individual needs are core values. Sex and age are important determinants of authority patterns, with these patterns evident in the social organization of virtually all colony activities. Community integration is achieved through communal song, prayer, and worship as well as through the cooperative nature of economic activities.

Political Organization. There is no overarching political structure governing all Hutterites, though each of the three Leut has an elected head elder. Within each colony, there is a clear authority structure: (1) the colony; (2) the Gemein (church) composed of all baptized adults; (3) the council of five to seven men which serves as the colony's executive board; (4) the informal council of some council members which makes day-to-day decisions; (5) the head preacher ("elder") who serves as the contact with the outside world; and the Diener der Notdurft (steward or boss) who is the Economic manager of the colony.

Social Control and Conflict. Hutterite socialization is designed to produce responsible, submissive, hardworking adults who can live cooperatively in the communal colonies. Social control is maintained through the daily reinforcement of these behaviors and adherence to the well-defined rules governing authority and decision making. Misconduct is handled through a progression of sanctions, from individual reproach to a hearing before the council to excommunication followed by reinstatement. Shedding the blood of another and deserting the colony are the worst crimes, neither of which can be forgiven. No murder has ever occurred among the Hutterites. Alcohol abuse has been a minor social problem since the 1600s.

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