He Tried Communism!
Hawthorne was one of the financiers of an experiment in socialism – the Brook Farm near Boston. The idea was that residents could live together in a commune, owning nothing, unbound by the pressures of capitalism. Spurning the profit motive, everyone was to be paid according to their need, then would work according to their ability – following the ideals of Communism’s founder, Karl Marx. Unfortunately, with little incentive to work hard, residents of the Brook Farm didn’t put out the extra effort necessary for a farm to succeed. Hawthorne wrote that he expected leisurely farm life to free him up to write, but instead he was required to cut straw, milk cows and shovel manure. His blistered hands made it difficult to write and he wondered how anyone could “expect pretty stories from a man who feeds pigs.” Disillusioned, he abandoned the commune after just a few months. The experiment went broke, destroyed by the unmotivated, self-interested behavior of its other members. Hawthorne’s 1852 novel, The Blithedale Romance, describes the misadventure.