The Amish: Microenterprises and a Changing Society

Chelsea Bailey, Elmira College

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This paper is an attempt to gain a sense of how Amish society is reacting to increasing dependence on technology in mainstream society, especially in the agricultural realm. It examines the changes that have been taking place in Amish society as larger American society increasingly embraces modernization and the Amish are forced to adopt new ways of living in order to survive economically. It explores the positive and negative attributes of entrance into the business world in terms of the perpetuation of the Amish cultural beliefs and values and speculates as to where the changes might lead their culture.

“The Amish are a people of separation. Indeed their entire history can be called a struggle to be separate” (Kraybill, 1994a, p. 1). This is one of the most basic and important tenets of Amish religious teachings, and it comes straight from various Biblical versus in which conforming to worldly ways is said to lead one down the road of sin. This idea, perhaps more than any other, shapes Amish culture in relation to that of the larger society. As Hostetler (1963) pointed out, “[separation] colors [the Amishman’s] entire view of reality and being” (p. 49). However, for a subculture living within American society it cannot be easy to remain physically separate from the outside world, and so the idea of separation has been placed mostly into the behavioral, moral, and cognitive realms.

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