A commune is an intentional community of people living together, sharing common interests, property, possessions, resources, and, in some communes, work and income. In addition to the communal economy, consensus decision-making, non-hierarchical structures and ecological living have become important core principles for many communes. Andrew Jacobs of The New York Times wrote that, contrary to popular misconceptions, "most communes of the '90s are not free-love refuges for flower children, but well-ordered, financially solvent cooperatives where pragmatics, not psychedelics, rule the day." There are many contemporary intentional communities all over the world, a list of which can be found at the Fellowship for Intentional Community.
Categorization of communities
- Alternative-family 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
Of course, 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. Moreover, some people find it is more economical to live communally.
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.
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. Additionally, the items listed by Roberts were the subject of general pop-theory discourse before and during his time and rather than being particular to communes indicate a wider international political discussion about post industrial societal structures and order. 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 organised as being too industrialised (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 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 idealised 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 FIC lists 186 communes world wide (17 Aug 2011). Some of these are religious institutions such as abbeys and monasteries, others are anthroposophic Camphill villages.
Many cultures naturally practice communal living, and wouldn't 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 with 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 communalisation 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 is an example of officially organized communes. Today, there are dozens of urban communes in 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. He 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.
Although communes are most frequently associated with the hippie movement—the "back-to-the-land" ventures of the 1960s and 1970s—there is a long history of communes in America. 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."
As of 2010, the Venezuelan state has intiated the construction of almost 200 "socialist communes" which are billed by as autonomous and independent from the government. The communes have their own "productive gardens” that grow their own vegetables as a method of self-supply. The communes would also make independent decisions in regards to administration and the use of funding. The idea has been denounced as an attempt to undermine elected local governments, since the central government could discretionally shift its funding away from these in favor of communes, which are overseen by the Ministry of Communes and Social Protection.
Notable examples of communes
||The examples and perspective in this section may not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (September 2011)|
- The Shakers, a religious sect, maintained one of the longest and most successful experiments in communal living in the United States. It was founded by Mother Ann Lee in Manchester, England. She and a group of followers settled in Watervliet, New York in 1776. By the mid-19th century, the sect grew to over 6,000 members living in 18 major communities, as well as six shorter lived ones. Although their numbers began a steady decline after the Civil War, one Shaker community remains active today in Sabbath Day Lake, Maine.
- The Harmony Society started by Johann Georg Rapp in Harmony, Pennsylvania, in 1804 and dissolving around 1905 in Ambridge, Pennsylvania, was one of the longest-running financially successful communes in American history.
- Brook Farm in Massachusetts existed from 1841 to 1847. Nathaniel Hawthorne, one of the commune's founders, fictionalized his experience in the novel The Blithedale Romance (1852).
- Fruitlands was a commune founded in 1843 by Amos Bronson Alcott in Harvard, Massachusetts. The tempo of life in this Transcendentalist community is recorded by Alcott's daughter, Louisa May Alcott, in her piece "Transcendental Wild Oats."
- The Oneida Community was a commune that lasted from 1848 to 1881 in Oneida, New York. Although this utopian experiment is better known today for its manufacture of Oneida silverware, it was one of the longest-running communes in American history.
- The commune Modern Times was formed in 1851 in Long Island.
- The Amana Colonies were communal settlements in Iowa which lasted from 1855 to 1932.
- The anarchist Home Colony was formed in 1895 across the Puget Sound from Tacoma, Washington on Key Peninsula, and lasted until 1919.
- The Twin Oaks Community is a commune that was founded in 1967; it continues to thrive.
- The Farm was founded in 1971 by Stephen Gaskin is on-going and continues to make a significant contribution to intentional community.
- Ganas is an on-going commune in the New Brighton neighborhood of Staten Island, New York.
- The Latin Settlements by German freethinkers mostly in rural, south central Texas in the mid-19th century.
- The Cecilia Community in Brazil, an anarchist community founded by Italian immigrants around the start of the 20th century in the southern region of Brazil.
- The Brotherhood of the Spirit/Renaissance Community, created by Michael Metelica in 1968 and lasting until 1988, was the largest commune in the northeast United States.
- Jesus People USA (JPUSA), started in 1972 and based in Chicago, Illinois' Uptown area, is perhaps the largest urban commune in the United States, and is still strongly flavored by its hippie / 60s roots.
- Kalakuta Republic (Nigeria), a modern manifestation of Nigeria's traditionally tribal urbanization, was the name the musician and political activist Fela Kuti gave to the communal compound that housed his family, band members, and recording studio. The compound burned to the ground in 1977 after a violent assault by a thousand armed soldiers in the service of the Nigerian state.
- Anarchist Catalonia
- Art Commune
- Co-operative living arrangements
- 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
- 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 Belarussian commune assembly
- Hutterite, a Christian sect that lives in communal "colonies"
- Intentional communities
- Kibbutz, Israeli communes
- 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 control by a village
- World Brotherhood Colonies
- Jacobs, Andrew (1998-11-29). "Yes, It's a Commune. Yes, It's on Staten Island.". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). p. 1. Retrieved 2009-07-21.
- "Welcome to the Intentional Communities Directory". irectory.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. 2011-08-18. Retrieved 2011-08-18. "We use commune only when referring to communities that share their income and resources completely, or nearly so" Unknown parameter
- "Kommuja-Netzwerk". kommuja.de. Retrieved 28 September 2010. (German)
- 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
- Jacobs, Andrew (2006-06-11). "Extreme Makeover, Commune Edition". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). p. 1. Retrieved 2009-07-21.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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, Mass., 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.
- 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, 335-337+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.
|Wikisource has the text of the 1905 New International Encyclopedia article Communistic Societies.|
- Communal Studies Bibliography
- Federation of Egalitarian Communities
- Intentional Communities Website
- List of Communes of France
- Intentional Communities Wiki
- kamparealis Online cooperative commune (Russian)
- 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.
- Twin Oaks Communities Conference Conference focused on education about living in intentional communities.