A commune (the French word appearing in the 12th century from Medieval Latin communia, meaning a large gathering of people sharing a common life; from Latin communis, things held in common) is an intentional community of people living together, sharing common interests, often having common values and beliefs, as well as shared property, possessions, resources, and, in some communes, work, income or assets.
In addition to the communal economy, consensus decision-making, non-hierarchical structures and ecological living have become important core principles for many communes. There are many contemporary intentional communities all over the world, a list of which can be found at the Fellowship for Intentional Community (FIC).
Categorization of communities
- Alternative-family communities
- Coliving communities
- Cooperative communities
- Countercultural communities
- Egalitarian communities
- Political communities
- Psychological communities (based on mystical or gestalt principles)
- Rehabilitational communities (see Synanon)
- Religious communities
- Spiritual communities
- Experimental communities
Many communal ventures encompass more than one of these categorizations. Some communes, such as the ashrams of the Vedanta Society or the Theosophical commune Lomaland, formed around spiritual leaders, while others formed around political ideologies. For others, the "glue" is simply the desire for a more shared, sociable lifestyle.
Core principles of communes
The central characteristics of communes, or core principles that define communes, have been expressed in various forms over the years. Before 1840 such communities were known as "communist and socialist settlements"; by 1860, they were also called "communitarian" and by around 1920 the term "intentional community" had been added to the vernacular of some theorists. The term "communitarian" was invented by the Suffolk-born radical John Goodwyn Barmby, subsequently a Unitarian minister.
At the start of the 1970s, The New Communes author Ron E. Roberts classified communes as a subclass of a larger category of Utopias. He listed three main characteristics. Communes of this period tended to develop their own characteristics of theory though, so while many strived for variously expressed forms of egalitarianism, Roberts' list should never be read as typical. Roberts' three listed items were: first, egalitarianism – that communes specifically rejected hierarchy or graduations of social status as being necessary to social order. Second, human scale – that members of some communes saw the scale of society as it was then organized as being too industrialized (or factory sized) and therefore unsympathetic to human dimensions. And third, that communes were consciously anti-bureaucratic.
Twenty five years later, Dr. Bill Metcalf, in his edited book Shared Visions, Shared Lives defined communes as having the following core principles: the importance of the group as opposed to the nuclear family unit, a "common purse", a collective household, group decision making in general and intimate affairs. Sharing everyday life and facilities, a commune is an idealized form of family, being a new sort of "primary group" (generally with fewer than 20 people although again there are outstanding examples of much larger communes or communes that experienced episodes with much larger populations). Commune members have emotional bonds to the whole group rather than to any sub-group, and the commune is experienced with emotions which go beyond just social collectivity.
Communes around the world
With the simple definition of a commune as an intentional community with 100% income sharing, the online directory of the Fellowship for Intentional Community (FIC) lists 222 communes worldwide (28 January 2019). Some of these are religious institutions such as abbeys and monasteries. Others are based in anthroposophic philosophy, including Camphill villages that provide support for the education, employment, and daily lives of adults and children with developmental disabilities, mental health problems or other special needs. Many communes are part of the New Age movement.
Many cultures naturally practice communal or tribal living, and would not designate their way of life as a planned 'commune' per se, though their living situation may have many characteristics of a commune.
In Germany, a large number of the intentional communities define themselves as communes and there is a network of political communes called "Kommuja" with about 30 member groups (May 2009). Germany has a long tradition of intentional communities going back to the groups inspired by the principles of Lebensreform in the 19th century. Later, about 100 intentional communities were started in the Weimar Republic after World War I; many had a communal economy. In the 1960s, there was a resurgence of communities calling themselves communes, starting with the Kommune 1 in Berlin, followed by Kommune 2 (also Berlin) and Kommune 3 in Wolfsburg.
In the German commune book, Das KommuneBuch, communes are defined by Elisabeth Voß as communities which:
- Live and work together,
- Have a communal economy, i.e. common finances and common property (land, buildings, means of production),
- Have communal decision making – usually consensus decision making,
- Try to reduce hierarchy and hierarchical structures,
- Have communalization of housework, childcare and other communal tasks,
- Have equality between women and men,
- Have low ecological footprints through sharing and saving resources.
Kibbutzim in Israel, (sing., kibbutz) are examples of officially organized communes, the first of which were based on agriculture. Today, there are dozens of urban communes growing in the cities of Israel, often called urban kibbutzim. The urban kibbutzim are smaller and more anarchist. Most of the urban communes in Israel emphasize social change, education, and local involvement in the cities where they live. Some of the urban communes have members who are graduates of zionist-socialist youth movements, like HaNoar HaOved VeHaLomed, HaMahanot HaOlim and Hashomer Hatsair.
In 1831 John Vandeleur (a landlord) established a commune on his Ralahine Estate at Newmarket-on-Fergus, Co. Clare. Vandeleur asked Edward Thomas Craig, an English socialist, to formulate rules and regulations for the commune. It was set up with a population of 22 adult single men, 7 married men and their 7 wives, 5 single women, 4 orphan boys and 5 children under the age of 9 years. No money was employed, only credit notes which could be used in the commune shop. All occupants were committed to a life with no alcohol, tobacco, snuff or gambling. All were required to work for 12 hours a day during the summer and from dawn to dusk in winter. The social experiment prospered for a time and 29 new members joined. However, in 1833 the experiment collapsed due to the gambling debts of John Vandeleur. The members of the commune met for the last time on 23 November 1833 and placed on record a declaration of "the contentment, peace and happiness they had experienced for two years under the arrangements introduced by Mr. Vandeleur and Mr. Craig and which through no fault of the Association was now at an end".
In imperial Russia, the vast majority of Russian peasants held their land in communal ownership within a mir community, which acted as a village government and a cooperative. The very widespread and influential pre-Soviet Russian tradition of Monastic communities of both sexes could also be considered a form of communal living. After the end of communism in Russia, monastic communities have again become more common, populous and, to a lesser degree, more influential in Russian society. Various patterns of Russian behavior — toloka (толока), pomochi (помочи), artel' (артель) — are also based on communal ("мирские") traditions.
A 19th century advocate and practitioner of communal living was the utopian socialist John Goodwyn Barmby, who founded a Communist Church before becoming a Unitarian minister. The UK today has several communes or intentional communities, increasing since the New Towns Act 1946 to recuperate a lost sense of community at the centralization of population in Post-War New Towns such as Crawley or Corby.
The Simon Community in London is an example of social cooperation, made to ease homelessness within London. It provides food and religion and is staffed by homeless people and volunteers. Mildly nomadic, they run street "cafés" which distribute food to their known members and to the general public.
The Bruderhof has three locations in the UK and follows the example of the earliest Christians in the Book of Acts by living in community and sharing all things in common. In Glandwr, near Crymych, Pembrokeshire, a co-op called Lammas Ecovillage focuses on planning and sustainable development. Granted planning permission by the Welsh Government in 2009, it has since created 9 holdings and is a central communal hub for its community. In Scotland, the Findhorn Foundation founded by Peter and Eileen Caddy and Dorothy Maclean in 1962 is prominent for its educational centre and experimental architectural community project based at The Park, in Moray, Scotland, near the village of Findhorn.
There is a long history of communes in America (see this short discussion of Utopian communities) which led to the rise in the communes of the hippie movement—the "back-to-the-land" ventures of the 1960s and 1970s. One commune that played a large role in the hippie movement was Kaliflower, a utopian living cooperative that existed in San Francisco between 1967 and 1973 built on values of free love and anti-capitalism.
Andrew Jacobs of The New York Times wrote that "after decades of contraction, the American commune movement has been expanding since the mid-1990s, spurred by the growth of settlements that seek to marry the utopian-minded commune of the 1960s with the American predilection for privacy and capital appreciation." (See Intentional community). The Fellowship for Intentional Community (FIC) is the best source for listings of and more information about communes in the United States.
While many American communes are short lived, some have been in operation for over 50 years. The Bruderhof was established in the US in 1954, Twin Oaks in 1967 and Koinonia Farm in 1942. Twin Oaks is a rare example of a non-religious commune surviving for longer than 30 years.
As of 2010[update], the Venezuelan state has initiated the construction of almost 200 "socialist communes" which are billed as autonomous and independent from the government. The communes purportedly have their own "productive gardens" that grow their own vegetables as a method of self-supply. The communes also make independent decisions in regards to administration and the use of funding. The idea has been denounced[by whom?] as an attempt to undermine elected local governments, since the central government could shift its funding away from these in favor of communes, which are overseen by the federal Ministry of Communes and Social Protection.
- Anarchist Catalonia
- Art commune
- Common land
- Communal land
- Commune (documentary), a 2005 documentary about Black Bear Ranch, an intentional community located in Siskiyou County, California
- Commune of Paris
- Counterculture of the 1960s
- Diggers and Dreamers
- Drop City
- Egalitarian communities
- Ejido, a form of Mexican land distribution resembling a commune
- Equality colony
- Fellowship for Intentional Community
- Free Vermont
- Great Leap Forward, a time period in the 1950s and 1960s when the Chinese government created such communes
- Obshchina, communes of the Russian Empire
- Hramada, a Belarusian commune assembly
- Hutterite, a Christian sect that lives in communal "colonies"
- Intentional communities
- List of intentional communities
- People's commune, type of administrative level in China from 1958 – early 1980s
- Renaissance Community
- Utopian socialism
- Well-field system, a Chinese land distribution system with common lands controlled by a village
- World Brotherhood Colonies
- Communes of France
- "Welcome to the Intentional Communities Directory". directory.ic.org. Retrieved 28 September 2010.
- Zablocki, Benjamin (1971). The Joyful Community: An Account of the Bruderhof: A Communal Movement Now in Its Third Generation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-97749-8.
- Stockwell, Foster (1998). Encyclopedia of American Communes.
- Roberts 1971.
- Metcalf 1996.
"Commune Directory – List of Communes". FIC Online Communities Directory. Fellowship for Intentional Community. 28 January 2019. Retrieved 28 January 2019.
We use commune only when referring to communities that share their income and resources completely, or nearly so
- "Archives - Philly.com". articles.philly.com.
- "Kommuja-Netzwerk" (in German). kommuja.de. Retrieved 28 September 2010.
- Voß 1996, pp. 17–26.
- Horrox, James. "A Living Revolution: Anarchism in the Kibbutz Movement", pp. 87–109
- Horrox, James. "Rebuilding Israel's Utopia", Zeek: A Jewish Journal of Thought and Culture, October 2007
- Industrial Co-operation, the Story of a Peaceful Revolution: Being the Account of the History, Theory, and Practice of the Co-operative Movement in Great Britain and Ireland: Prepared for the Co-operative Education Association, Catherine Webb, Co-operative union, limited, 1907, p. 64
- Энгельгардт, Александр, Письма из деревни, М., 1987
- Морозов, Юрий, Пути России. М., 1992, т. 2, гл. 13
- Trahair, R.C.S (1999). Utopias and Utopians: An Historical Dictionary. Westport: Greenwood Press. pp. 27–28. ISBN 0-313-29465-8.
- "The Simon Community". The Simon Community. 2014-03-21. Retrieved 2014-03-21.
We are a community of homeless people and volunteers living and working together in a spirit of love, acceptance, tolerance and understanding. We aim to reach out to support and campaign for people who are experiencing homelessness, and particularly those for whom no other provision exists
- "South East England | Diggers and Dreamers". www.diggersanddreamers.org.uk. Retrieved 2019-04-30.
- "About Us". Plough. Retrieved 2017-06-16.
- "5 Beliefs That Set the Bruderhof Apart From Other Christians". Newsmax. Retrieved 2017-05-15.
- "Lammas". Lammas. 2014-03-21. Retrieved 2014-03-21.
The Lammas project has been created to pioneer an alternative model for living on the land. It empowers people to explore what it is to live a low-impact lifestyle. It demonstrates that alternatives are possible here and now.
- "Findhorn Foundation – Findhorn Foundation History". Findhorn Foundation. 2014-03-21. Retrieved 2014-03-21.
The Findhorn Community was begun in 1962 by Peter and Eileen Caddy and Dorothy Maclean.
- Local relations between the Findhorn Foundation and the village of Findhorn have occasionally foundered over inconsiderate use of the word 'Findhorn' to mean either the former or the Ecovillage. See for example Walker (1994), Talk:Findhorn Foundation and also Findhorn (disambiguation).
- Parker, Fournier, Reedy (2007). The Dictionary of Alternatives: Utopian and Organization. Zed Books. p. 100. ISBN 1-84277-333-X.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
- Kanter, Rosabeth Moss (January 1, 1972). Commitment and Community: Communes and Utopias in Sociological Perspective. Harvard University Press. p. 32. ISBN 978-0-674-14576-4. Retrieved March 14, 2014.
- Jacobs, Andrew (2006-06-11). "Extreme Makeover, Commune Edition". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. p. 1. Retrieved 2009-07-21.
- "Bruderhof - Fellowship for Intentional Community". Fellowship for Intentional Community. Retrieved 2017-11-11.
- "Twin Oaks Intentional Community - Twin Oaks Intentional Community Home". www.twinoaks.org. Retrieved 2017-11-11.
- "Brief History". Koinonia Farm. Retrieved 2017-11-11.
- Tamara Pearson. "184 Communes Currently in Formation in Venezuela". venezuelanalysis.com. Retrieved 28 September 2010.
- "Commune-ism: Yet another method to entrench the president's power". The Economist. 2010-07-17.
- Curl, John (2007). Memories of Drop City, The First Hippie Commune of the 1960s and the Summer of Love, a memoir. iUniverse. ISBN 0-595-42343-4. Red-coral.net
- Curl, John (2009) For All The People: Uncovering the Hidden History of Cooperation, Cooperative Movements, and Communalism in America, PM Press. ISBN 978-1-60486-072-6.
- Fitzgerald, George R. (1971). Communes Their Goals, Hopes, Problems. New York: Paulist Press.
- Hall, John R. (1978). The Ways Out: Utopian Communal Groups in an Age of Babylon. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
- Horrox, James. (2009). A Living Revolution: Anarchism in the Kibbutz Movement. Oakland: AK Press.
- Margaret Hollenbach. (2004)Lost and Found: My Life in a Group Marriage Commune. University of New Mexico Press, ISBN 0-8263-3463-6.
- Roberts, Ron E. (1971). The new communes: coming together in America. Prentice-Hall.
- Rosabeth Moss Kanter. (1972) Commitment and community: communes and utopias in sociological perspective. Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-14575-5
- Kanter, Rosabeth Moss. (1973) Communes: creating and managing the collective life. New York, Harper & Row. ISBN 0-06-043476-7
- Lattin, Don. (2003, March 2) Twilight of Hippiedom. The San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved March 16, 2008
- Lauber, John. (1963, June). Hawthorne's Shaker Tales [Electronic version]. Nineteenth-Century Fiction, Vol. 18, 82–86.
- Metcalf, Bill; Metcalf, William James (1996). Shared visions, shared lives: communal living around the globe. Scotland: Findhorn Press. ISBN 1-899171-01-0.
- Meunier, Rachel. (1994, December 17). Communal Living in the Late 60s and Early 70s. Retrieved March 16, 2008, from thefarm.org
- Miller, Timothy. (1997) "Assault on Eden: A Memoir of Communal Life in the Early '70s", Utopian Studies, Vol. 8, 1997.
- Roberts, Ron E. (1971). The New Communes Coming Together in America. New Jersey: Prentice Hall inc.
- Van Deusen, David. (2008) Green Mountain Communes: The Making of a Peoples’ Vermont, Catamount Tavern News Service.
- Veysey, Laurence R. (1978) The Communal Experience: Anarchist and Mystical Communities in Twentieth Century America
- Voß, Elisabeth (1996). "Was ist eine Kommune?". Das KommuneBuch (in German). Göttingen: Verlag Die Werkstatt. ISBN 3-89533-162-7.
- Wild, Paul H. (1966 March). Teaching Utopia [Electronic version]. The English Journal, Vol. 55, No. 3, 335–37, 339.
- Zablocki, Benjamin. (1980, 1971) The Joyful Community: An Account of the Bruderhof: A Communal Movement Now in Its Third Generation (University of Chicago Press, 1971, reissued 1980), ISBN 0-226-97749-8. (The 1980 edition of the Whole Earth Catalog called this book "the best and most useful book on communes that's been written".)
- Zablocki, Benjamin. (1980) Alienation and Charisma: A Study of Contemporary American Communes (The Free Press, 1980), ISBN 0-02-935780-2.
- Communal Studies Bibliography
- Federation of Egalitarian Communities
- Intentional Communities Website
- eurotopia European Directory of Communities and Ecovillages
- List of Communes of France
- Intentional Communities Wiki
- List of Communes in the Communities Directory
- "Roots of Communal Revival" by Timothy Miller. A paper on communes in North America from World War I to the 1960s.