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ECONOMIC PRAGMATISM: THE IOWA AMISH AND THE VISION OF COMMUNAL COHERENCE IN LATE 2O CENTURY AMERICA

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Author(s): Silvano A. Wueschner

Journal: Essays in Economic & Business History
ISSN 0896-226X

Volume: 20;
Issue: 1;
Date: 2002;
Original page

ABSTRACT
This paper examines how members of one Amish settlement in southern Iowa have attempted to broaden their economic activities in an effort to maintain their religiously based community; The Amish dress in a plain 19th century style and rely on horses for their work and transportation needs, and, on the surface at least, eschew the modern ways of the world. Though it is readily apparent that the long held perception of a cloistered life is a myth. The Amish have managed to push their communal strictures to the limit. At the same time it is apparent that it has been a daunting task at best for the Amish to attempt to maintain their cultural homogeneity in an economy dominated by sweeping technological and social changes. The Amish frequent many of the same retail stores as their “other world neighbors,” have availed themselves of modern means of transportation to travel great distances to visit relatives or to attend funerals and weddings, and in the winter some, especially the elderly, spend the harsher months in Florida as do their “English” counterparts. Within Amish communities there have been signs of conflicts that have had less to do with theological questions but more with efforts to cling to old customs. As the paper points out, the Amish have been wedded to an impossible exegesis given the modernizing influences of the surrounding world.
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