How the kibbutz movement thrived despite its inherent economic contradictions and why it eventually declined.
The kibbutz is a social experiment in collective living that challenges traditional economic theory. By sharing all income and resources equally among its members, the kibbutz system created strong incentives to free ride or—as in the case of the most educated and skilled—to depart for the city. Yet for much of the twentieth century kibbutzim thrived, and kibbutz life was perceived as idyllic both by members and the outside world. In The Mystery of the Kibbutz, Ran Abramitzky blends economic perspectives with personal insights to examine how kibbutzim successfully maintained equal sharing for so long despite their inherent incentive problems.
Weaving the story of his own family’s experiences as kibbutz members with extensive economic and historical data, Abramitzky sheds light on the idealism and historic circumstances that helped kibbutzim overcome their economic contradictions. He illuminates how the design of kibbutzim met the challenges of thriving as enclaves in a capitalist world and evaluates kibbutzim’s success at sustaining economic equality. By drawing on extensive historical data and the stories of his pioneering grandmother who founded a kibbutz, his uncle who remained in a kibbutz his entire adult life, and his mother who was raised in and left the kibbutz, Abramitzky brings to life the rise and fall of the kibbutz movement.
Ran Abramitzky is Associate Professor of Economics at Stanford University. His research is in economic history and applied microeconomics, with focus on immigration and income inequality. He is a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research and a senior fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research. He is the vice chair of the economics department, and the co-editor of Explorations in Economic History. He was awarded an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship, as well as National Science Foundation grants for research on the causes and consequences of income inequality and on international migration. He has received the Economics Department’s and the Dean’s Awards for Distinguished Teaching. He holds a PhD in economics from Northwestern University.
Copies of the book will be available for sale at the event.