Commune (intentional community)

A commune is an intentional community of people living together, sharing common interests, property, possessions, resources, 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.

The planned communities which began in the 1960s and later have changed considerably. Today most people are seeking to create a new type of community where the housing is more affordable and the people who are members are already known to you. People who create and reside in the communities are seeking a return to a better way of life. There are many contemporary intentional communities all over the world, a list of which can be found at the Fellowship for Intentional Community's Online Communities Directory

Categorization of communities

Benjamin Zablocki categorized communities this way:

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. Many contemporary squatters pool their resources in this way, forming urban communes in unoccupied buildings.

Core principles of communes

The central characteristics of communes, and the definition of what a commune is, have changed over the years. In the 1960s, almost any counter-cultural, rural, intentional community was called a commune. At the start of the 1970s, communes were regarded by Ron E. Roberts in his book, "The New Communes", as being a subclass of the larger category of Utopias. Three main characteristics were listed: first, egalitarianism - communes specifically rejected hierarchy or graduations of social status as being necessary to social order. Second, human scale - members of communes saw the scale of society as it was then organised as being too large. Third, 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 less than 20 people). 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.

Communities in the United States

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.

A few notable examples include:

Communes in the world

With the simple definition of a commune as an intentional community with 100% income sharing, the online directory of the FIC lists 179 communes world wide. Some of these are religious institutions such as abbeys and monasteries, others are anthroposophic Camphill villages.

Beyond the United States, there have been other famous communes, such as the kibbutzim in Israel.

In Germany, a large number of the intentional communities define themselves as communes and there is a network of political communes called Kommuja with 35 member groups. Germany has a long tradition of intentional communities going back to the groups inspired by the principles of Lebens reform in the 19th. century. Later, about 100 intentional communities were started in the Weimar Republic after World War 1, 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 Kommune Buch, 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.

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.


  • 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.
  • Margaret Hollenbach, Lost and Found: My Life in a Group Marriage Commune (University of New Mexico Press, 2004), ISBN 0-8263-3463-6.
  • Timothy Miller, "Assault on Eden: A Memoir of Communal Life in the Early '70s", Utopian Studies, Vol. 8, 1997.
  • Laurence R. Veysey, The Communal Experience: Anarchist and Mystical Communities in Twentieth Century America (1978).
  • Benjamin Zablocki, 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".)
  • Benjamin Zablocki, Alienation and Charisma: A Study of Contemporary American Communes (The Free Press, 1980), ISBN 0-02-935780-2.

See also


Roberts, Ron E. (1971). The New Communes Coming Together in America. New Jersey: Prentice Hall inc.

Fitzgerald, George R. (1971). Communes Their Goals, Hopes, Problems. New York: Paulist Press.

Lattin, Don. (2003, March 2) Twilight of Hippiedom. The San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved March 16, 2008, from

Meunier, Rachel. (1994, December 17). Communal Living in the Late 60s and Early 70s. Retrieved March 16, 2008, from

Lauber, John. (1963, June). Hawthorne’s Shaker Tales [Electronic version]. Nineteenth-Century Fiction, Vol. 18, 82-86.

Wild, Paul H. (1966 March). Teaching Utopia [Electronic version]. The English Journal, Vol. 55, No. 3, 335-337+339.

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. (1925). The Great Gatsby. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.

Metcalf, Dr.Bill. (1996) Shared Visions, Shared Lives, Findhorn Press, Scotland.

Voß, Elisabeth. (1996) Was ist eine Kommune? Pages 17 to 26, in, Das Kommune Buch, by Kollektiv KommuneBuch, Göttingen: Verlag Die Werkstatt. ISBN 3-89533-162-7

External links

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