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An intentional community is a voluntary residential community designed from the start to have a high degree of social cohesion and teamwork. The members of an intentional community typically hold a common social, political, religious, or spiritual vision, often follow an alternative lifestyle and typically share responsibilities and property. Intentional communities can be seen as social experiments or also communal experiments. The multitude of intentional communities includes collective households, cohousing communities, coliving, ecovillages, monasteries, survivalist retreats, kibbutzim, hutterites, ashrams, and housing cooperatives.
Ashrams are likely the earliest intentional communities founded around 1500 BCE, while buddhist monasteries appeared around 500 BCE. Pythagoras founded an intellectual vegetarian commune in about 525 BCE in southern Italy. Hundreds of modern intentional communities were formed across Europe, North and South America, Australia, and New Zealand out of the intellectual foment of utopianism. Intentional communities exhibit the utopian ambition to create a better, more sustainable world for living. Nevertheless, the term utopian community as a synonym for an intentional community is considered to be of pejorative nature and many intentional communities do not consider themselves to be utopian. Also the alternative term commune[a] is considered to be non-neutral or even linked to leftist politics or hippies.
Additional terms referring to an intentional community can be alternative lifestyle, intentional society, cooperative community, withdrawn community, enacted community, socialist colony, communistic society, collective settlement, communal society, mutualistic community, communitarian experiment, experimental community, utopian experiment, practical utopia, and utopian society.
|B. Shenker||1986||"An intentional community is a relatively small group of people who have created a whole way of life for the attainment of a certain set of goals."|
|D. E. Pitzer||1989||Intentional communities are "small, voluntary social units partly isolated from the general society in which members share an economic union and lifestyle in an attempt to implement, at least in part, their ideal ideological, religious, political, social, economic, and educational systems".|
|G. Kozeny||1996||"An 'intentional community' is a group of people who have chosen to live together with a common purpose, working cooperatively to create a lifestyle that reflects their shared core values. The people may live together on a piece of rural land, in a suburban home, or in an urban neighborhood, and they may share a single residence or live in a cluster of dwellings."|
|W. J. Metcalf||2004||An intentional community is "[f]ive or more people, drawn from more than one family or kinship group, who have voluntarily come together for the purpose of ameliorating perceived social problems and inadequacies. They seek to live beyond the bounds of mainstream society by adopting a consciously devised and usually well thought-out social and cultural alternative. In the pursuit of their goals, they share significant aspects of their lives together. Participants are characterized by a "we-consciousness," seeing themselves as a continuing group, separate from and in many ways better than the society from which they emerged."|
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The purposes of intentional communities vary in different communities. They may include such as a feminist, spiritual, economic, or environmental purposes. In addition to spiritual communities, secular communities also exist. One common practice, particularly in spiritual communities, is communal meals. Typically, there is a focus on egalitarian values. Benjamin Zablocki categorized communities this way:
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. Other themes are voluntary simplicity, interpersonal growth, and self-sufficiency. Some intentional communities are also micronations, such as Freetown Christiania.
Many communities have different types or levels of membership. Typically, intentional communities have a selection process which starts with someone interested in the community coming for a visit. Often prospective community members are interviewed by a selection committee of the community or in some cases by everyone in the community. Many communities have a "provisional membership" period. After a visitor has been accepted, a new member is "provisional" until they have stayed for some period (often six months or a year) and then the community re-evaluates their membership. Generally, after the provisional member has been accepted, they become a full member. In many communities, the voting privileges or community benefits for provisional members are less than those for full members.
Christian intentional communities are usually composed of those wanting to emulate the practices of the earliest believers. Using the biblical book of Acts (and, often, the Sermon on the Mount) as a model, members of these communities strive for a practical working out of their individual faith in a corporate context. These Christian intentional communities try to live out the teachings of the New Testament and practice lives of compassion and hospitality. Communities such as the Simple Way, the Bruderhof and Rutba House would fall into this category. These communities, despite strict membership criteria, are open to visitors and not reclusive in the way that certain intentional communities are.
A survey in the 1995 edition of the "Communities Directory", published by Fellowship for Intentional Community (FIC), reported that 54 percent of the communities choosing to list themselves were rural, 28 percent were urban, 10 percent had both rural and urban sites, and 8 percent did not specify.
The most common form of governance in intentional communities is democratic (64 percent), with decisions made by some form of consensus decision-making or voting. A hierarchical or authoritarian structure governs 9 percent of communities, 11 percent are a combination of democratic and hierarchical structure, and 16 percent do not specify. Many communities which were initially led by an individual or small group have changed in recent years to a more democratic form of governance.
The central characteristics of communes, or core principles that define communes, have been expressed in various forms over the years. 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: 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 there are examples of much larger communes). 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 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:
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 women and their 7 husbands, 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 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. 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.
The Findhorn Ecovillage community at The Park, Findhorn, a village in Moray, Scotland, and at Cluny Hill in Forres, now houses more than 400 people.
Historic agricultural examples include the Diggers settlement on St George's Hill, Surrey during the English Civil War and the Clousden Hill Free Communist and Co-operative Colony near Newcastle upon Tyne during the 1890s.
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.
We use commune only when referring to communities that share their income and resources completely, or nearly so
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
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.
The Findhorn Community was begun in 1962 by Peter and Eileen Caddy and Dorothy Maclean.