March 2010

Giles Wayland-Smith on “Liberation Theology: The Oneida Community’s Perfectionist Vision in Practice”

March 17, 2010, 7:00 pm

Betts Branch Library

Giles Wayland-Smith will outline the religious beliefs that provided the foundation of the Oneida Community, one of the 19th century’s most radical and successful communal experiments. The twin tenets of Perfectionism and Bible Communism argued that it was possible to do away with selfishness, the cardinal human sin, and build a perfect society in the here and now. It ultimately failed to do that. However, during its thirty-three year existence (from 1848 to 1881) it was an exceptionally successful business venture and many of its practices (in areas as varied as work and education, child-rearing and women’s rights, governance and relationship to nature) were unusually advanced for the times. Indeed, many of its practices can provide useful lessons for society today.

Giles Wayland-Smith graduated Cum Laude from Amherst College in 1957 and received his PhD in Political Science from the Maxwell School, Syracuse University in 1968. He is professor emeritus of Political Science, Allegheny College, with a specialty in comparative politics. While his major focus was on Latin America, his broader interest was the process of social change and the roles that ideology and specific political movements (such as Marxism and Christian Democracy) have played in that process. Since retiring after thirty-two years in 1999, he taught for six years as an adjunct faculty member at Hamilton College. Dr. Wayland-Smith is also a direct descendant of the Oneida Community. He has served on the Board of Trustees of the Oneida Community Mansion House museum since 1992, and various other positions there. He is the author of conference papers, lectures, and articles on the Oneida Community, upstate New York history, and the presentation of historical narratives at museums and historic sites. He lives with his wife, Kate, in the Mansion House in Oneida, New York.

Betts Branch Library
Meeting Room
4862 S. Salina St.
Syracuse, NY 13205

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