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« What If John Rawls Read Milton Friedman Seriously and Empirically? | Main | The Piketty Controversy »

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Communal kitchens were part of the socialist dream for decades before the Bolshevik Revolution. Edward Bellamy featured them in his pro-socialist fantasy Looking Backwards in 1888. Eugene Richter also had communal kitchens in his anti-socialist reply book Pictures of the Socialistic Future in 1891.

Bellamy thought communal kitchens would ensure equality and free women from house work.

Richter, more accurately, thought they would be a means for social control and punishment.

On a somewhat unrelated note, I recently read a book that was a type of updated version of Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward. Its called Looking Backward:2162-2012 by Beth Cody. Look it up on Amazon, an easy but entertaining read.

Communal kitchens weren't just a socialist idea. In the late 19th and especially the early 20th century, hotel living caught on in a big way among people who could afford it, in part because it provided kitchen functions without requiring the supervision of servants. It seemed to be the efficient way of the future--but, of course, the assumption was that there would be specialization of labor not a mere sharing of space. (Keep in mind that kitchen labor was much more difficult and time-consuming than it is became after World War II.) Nowadays, we use privately owned communal kitchens all the time. They're just owned by restaurants. (For data on the dramatic growth of expenditures on food away from home over time, see table 10 here: http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/food-expenditures.aspx#.U5JYzZRdXgY.)

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