What Are Communal Families?

Juhan Sonin/CC-BY 2.0

Communal families, also called communes, are groups of people who live together, share properties and often follow a set of rules and guidelines for living daily life. Some communes are formed by people with specific religious beliefs, while others are formed from economic necessity. Commune members may include groups of relatives and typically include people who ascribe to a certain set of beliefs or values established by a leader or by religious traditions.

Communes exist in many areas around the world. These communal families, considered utopian societies, appeared in the United States during the early part of the 19th century. Communes in the United States include New Harmony, Brook Farm and Oneida. Communes commonly exist for religious purposes, but many other categories of communes exist too. Other categories include cooperative communities, where people share resources and even income, political communes and rehabilitation communities. Communes vary in the number of rules residents must follow and the amount of personal freedom members have to make personal choices. Regardless of reason for existence, communes share several universal characteristics. They are specialized segments within larger societies and advocate group life over nuclear family life. Communes are generally associated with three characteristics: rejecting hierarchical social structure, espousing the belief that societies are too industrialized and having an anti-bureaucratic sentiment.