Almost thirty years ago my wife Sylvia and I launched an adult education program we called the OIKOS Project on Work, Family and Faith. Through colorful visuals, talks, and worksheet exercises it helped people get a better understanding of the relationships that upheld their lives in family, marriage, work, and religious life. We soon added our relationships to the land as part of this complex system of trusting bonds.
The ancient Greek word “oikos” meant “household.” But this was no domicile for a nuclear family. The household of ancient Mediterranean culture embraced an ensemble of intergenerational family, religious practices, economic production, and ecological stewardship, including the care of domesticated animals. This little word is the root of our English words ecumenical, economics, and ecology. These are connections we have largely lost in the specialization and compartmentalization of life brought about through the rise of capitalist industrialization. The OIKOS Project was an effort to think systemically and holistically about how to reintegrate our lives in our contemporary world.
Over a period of almost fifteen years we conducted about a hundred workshops, made four videos, and assembled a set of papers based on the presentations that we made available as “The OIKOS Papers on Work, Family and Faith“ (1990). The Project also fueled my own research, writing, and teaching on family, economics, and ecology.
Since then, others have continued to work with this general idea, elaborating and intensifying it in various ways. In particular, Prof. Mark Davies has developed an OIKOS Scholars Program at Oklahoma City University. (You can also visit his blog, One World House.) Prof. Bruno Dyck, at the University of Manitoba, has also written recently using the idea of “oikos” to guide his research in management studies.
I still get inquiries about the OIKOS Project and the conceptual framework that shaped it, so I have gone back to the OIKOS Papers and, with only a few corrections or stylistic changes, now make them available in a .pdf format for anyone who would like to use them. While some of the “facts of the day” have changed, it was refreshing to see that the general framework is still a very useful lens for understanding the fragmentation of our lives and ways we might better reintegrate them. Your comments, as always, are appreciated.
As with my other free books and articles you can view them in an Acrobat Reader format by clicking on OIKOS Papers here. You can also see other writings in Books and Articles – FREE on this site.