A commune is a type of intentional community where most resources are shared and there is little or no personal property (as opposed to communities that only share housing). In a commune the people live together, share common interests, property, possessions, resources, work and income. In addition to the communal economy, non-hierarchical structures and ecological living have become important core principles for many communes. With the simple definition of a commune as an intentional community with 100% income sharing, the online directory of the FIC lists almost 200 communes world wide.(June 2009) However, some of these intentional communities are religious institutions such as abbeys and monasteries, others are anthroposophic Camphill villages.

Benjamin Zablocki categorized communes this way:

  • Eastern religious communes
  • Christian communes
  • Psychological communes (based on mystical or gestalt principles)
  • Rehabilitational communes
  • Cooperative communes
  • Alternative-family communes
  • Countercultural communes ("hippies")
  • Political communes
  • Spiritual communes

Central characteristics 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 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.

In the German commune book, Dyas 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.


  • Zablocki, Benjamin, The Joyful Community: An Account of the Bruderhof: A Communal Movement Now in Its Third Generation. University of Chicago Press (1971, reissued 1980) ISBN 0226977498 (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, Alienation and Charisma: A Study of Contemporary American Communes. The Free Press. (1980) ISBN 0029357802 OMG ANGELICA WAS HERE HAHAHA =D