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. Andrew Jacobs of The New York Times wrote that, contrary to popular misconceptions, "most communes of the 90's are not free-love refuges for flower children, but well-ordered, financially solvent cooperatives where pragmatics, not psychedelics, rule the day."
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 each other. 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
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.
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 fewer 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.
With the simple definition of a commune as an intentional community with 100% income sharing, the online directory of the FIC lists 193 communes world wide (15 May 2009). 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 Vo as communities which:
Kibbutzim in Israel is an example of officially organized communes. Today, there are tens of urban communes in Israel, called often 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 composed by graduates of zionist-socialist youth movements, like HaNoar HaOved VeHaLomed, Hamahanot Haolim and Hashomer Hatsair.
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-1990's, spurred by the growth of settlements that seek to marry the utopian-minded commune of the 1960's 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 autonomous and independant from the government. These communes have so far cost 23 million dollars. The communes have their own "productive gardens– that grow their own vegetables as a method of self-supply. The communes also take decisions independantly in regards to administration and the use of funding.
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