American Shakers – Dying Religion, Emerging Cultural Phenomenon
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Through analysis of doctrine, cult, social and political organisation and the relations with the outside world, the article traces a dual development in the history of Shakerism, an American communitarian religious group: its rise and decline as a religion that has led to its almost complete extinction, and the accompanying process of its absorption into the mainstream of American culture. This became possible when, in the 20th century, Shakers – celibate communitarian pacifists – ceased to be perceived as a serious challenge to the American values of individualism, private property and the traditional model of family. Instead, their image was romanticised and material aspects of their culture emphasised, thus making Shakerism a sort of antiquarian curiosity, despite the survival of a small community of believers.
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