The Israeli Kibbutz – from Commune to Cooperative?

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 09:30
Location: Seminarraum 5C G (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Shlomo GETZ, Academic College of Emek Jezreel, Israel
During the last decades the kibbutz – a 'whole commune' uniting both production and consumption in the same entity, has undergone a transformation. The main changes are: In most kibbutzim members are paid a salary according their work (differential salary); they pay for most of the services (food, health care, education etc.), once free of charge; they hire workers and managers. The principle of self-management, once one of the flagships of the kibbutz is no more kept. Many office holders are not kibbutz members. Kibbutzim continue to keep democratic practices on major decisions, including elections of officers, admission of new members, approval of the annual budget and of major changes in the kibbutz way of life. Some researchers explain those changes as rationalization of kibbutz life, other as a transition from one type of economic institution –commune - to other types –hierarchy and market, due to "communal failure".

Do those transformations change the nature of the kibbutz as a commune? One claim is that the process the kibbutz undergoes is "a non-total revolution", while others claim that the abandon of some core principles of the kibbutz like differential salary change totally the identity of the kibbutz. Some theories of communal study predict that the process of decommunalization will lead the commune to become a regular capitalistic enterprise. The kibbutz can be defined now as a production cooperative. Kibbutz enterprises are collectively owned, decision making is made by the general assembly. Contrary to cooperative principles, kibbutz members can work outside the kibbutz and must live in the community. The kibbutz keeps some of its communal aspects like mutual responsibility

The contemporary kibbutz is neither a commune, nor a cooperative, and surely not only an economic enterprise. It may be considered as a unique way of life.