A commune is an intentional community of people living together, sharing common interests, property, possessions, resources, and, in some communes, 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.
Communal living was a popular experiment in the 1960s. Hippie writer/editor/computer innovator Stewart Brand founded The Whole Earth Catalog based on his observation that lots of people were leaving mainstream society and attempting to re-invent civilization. Other hippie philosophers including Timothy Leary, Alan Watts, Allen Ginsburg and Gary Snyder expressed similar ideas. Tapes of their "Psychedelic Summit" meeting discussing just how to do it and the possibility of humanity returning to an "Adam and Eve" simplicity still circulate on line.
Contrary to popular misconceptions, most modern communes (and many of the 60s and 70s variety) are not free-love refuges for flower children,note but well-ordered, financially solvent cooperatives where pragmatics, not psychedelics, rule the day. There are many contemporary intentional communities all over the world. And as Kate Daloz says in her book We Are As Gods, "every last leaf and crumb of today's $39 billion organic food industry owes its existence" to the hippie communes of the 60s and 70s. Think about this trope the next time you buy Stonyfield yogurt, Twin Oaks furniture, Celestial Seasonings tea, Cascadia Farms food, or Tom's of Maine and Burt's Bees cosmetics.
This is often the habitat (in fiction) of the New-Age Retro Hippie, Hippie Parents, and the Granola Girl, often city dwellers who felt the Call to Agriculture or thought The Simple Life Is Simple. The darker variant involves a cult or Crazy Survivalists/Right Wing Militia Fanatics.
Compare The Order, a group that doesn't necessarily live together but exists to perform one specific task.
- Earth is a 1930 Soviet propaganda film about a Ukranian peasant village moving from individual farms to collectivization of agriculture, with tension between the idealistic young communists who support collectivization, and the rich farmers ("kulaks") who want to keep their stuff.
- The movie Flashback, with Dennis Hopper and Kiefer Sutherland, revealed that straightlaced FBI agent John Buckner (Sutherland) spent his childhood on a commune with his Hippie Parents, who named him "Free".
- Monty Python and the Holy Grail. In the page quote, Dennis
the peasantinforms Arthur that he refuses to acknowledge him as king, since Dennis didn't get to vote for him, and getting made king by having received a sword from "some watery tart" (i.e. the Lady of the Lake) is no basis for government. He then goes into a far more detailed explanation of how their governance works, to Arthur's annoyance (eventually culminating in him grabbing Dennis). This is stated on the DVD commentary by John Cleese as a parody of radical leftists living in the UK at the time.
- Our Daily Bread is about John and Mary Sims, two City Mice who are desperate enough during The Great Depression to accept an offer to work an idle farm owned by Mary's uncle. They are pretty much helpless at farming, until Chris, a dispossessed farmer on his way to California, has a car breakdown right outside their farm. John invites Chris to stay on the farm rent-free in exchange for helping him work it. Inspired, John invites other tradesmen to live on the farm and work it. They wind up establishing a socialist collective farm in which there is no private property and everything goes into one common pot.
- The Reveal of The Village is that Covington, which appeared to be an isolated 19th century town, is this. The founders actually established the community back in The '70s, turning their backs on modern civilization to live in an enclosed community.
- The Swedish comedy/drama film Together is set in a 1975 leftist commune in Stockholm.
- The Last Station shows Leo Tolstoy's Yasnaya Polyana farm estate, which he was running as a commune at the time.
- Philip K. Dick's novel A Maze Of Death opens with several strangers arriving at the "Tekel Upharsin Kibbutz".
- The novel The Persistence of Vision by John Varley features a commune of deaf-blind people. They have some friends and their children to interact with the outside world when they need to. They also found themselves at times dealing with a hostile outside world, being attacked by a biker gang, and having to deal with social services trying to take their kids away from them.
- Tom 'Stoner' Stone, of the 1632 books, is the last remaining member of Lothlorien Commune, as he continues to style his home. The others drifted off over the years, leaving him with the property and three young boys to raise.
- After Michael Smith, the first human born on Mars, builds his new religion, the "Church of All Worlds", in Stranger in a Strange Land, he and his intimates live together in a nudist free love communal home called "the nest". It's actually strictly disciplined and the residents are studying to become superbeings who will soon run the world via Psychic Powersnote and Michael's unbelievable wealth. Tim Zell and a few friends tried to re-create this environment if not the goals (since neither the Martian language nor unbelievable wealth were available to them) starting in 1962. Their Church of All Worlds, which went in a neopagan direction in 1974, still exists today.
- In S.M. Stirling's T2 series (sequels to Terminator 2: Judgment Day), antagonist Ron Labane starts out living at a commune that's held on since the 70s, although he abandons it when he decides that the others have sold out.
- Nina in Fyra systrar by Solveig Olsson-Hultgren is sent away to her mother's cousin's commune.
- The almost-forgotten James Leo Herlihy novel The Season Of The Witch is about a 15-year-old runaway who goes to New York with a draft-dodging friend and ends up living in a city commune. The residents have outside jobs and pool money and resources. They have friends attempting realistic plans at a "New America". There is another city commune in Toronto later in the story.
- If you want to try this yourself, books like Alicia Bay Laurel's Living on the Earth, John & Jane Shuttleworth's Mother Earth News and Stewart Brand's The Whole Earth Catalog series are how-to guides for communal/rural living skills. Joan Shortney's How to Live on Nothing and the Foxfire series may help with both rural and city communes.
- My Name Is Earl. Earl recalls that he once robbed a stoner of all his possessions during a Heat Wave a few summers back. He tracks the guy down, and finds that he's living in a hippie commune outside of Camden, and thus doesn't want his air-conditioner or other items back. He teaches Earl about climate change...but also that it's going to be small changes that help prevent an Apocalypse How.
- The Nanny. Fran's descriptions of her exciting adventures on a kibbutz in Israel as a teen - which she's looking at through a Nostalgia Filter - makes older daughter Maggie to want to go, despite the fact that she isn't Jewish.
- Naomi's mum Gina in Skins turns their house into a commune populated by naked people, Jesus lookalikes, free love (one of the hippies notes of just-woken-up-naked-Naomi that "it's nothing he hasn't seen before", and she's "even got the same haircut her mum does"-he's not looking at her head), random transients and dopey women called Dopey who object to the heteronormative patriarchal symbolism of the humble banana.
- The Meyerist community in The Path. Since the mid-1970s, people have lived and worked there, growing food and pooling resources. They sell swag and books and give classes to earn more money. It's still a very '70s place owing to Meyerist attitudes and styles. It was originally the family farm of founder Steve Meyer. When prospective leader Eddie Lane has a vision of "The Garden" of Meyerist prophecy, it looks just like a more complete version of the community.
- The Outer Limits (1995): In "Lithia" the future female society all live in these, which they call "enclaves". All resources appear to be shared as needed wherever the World Council rules they should go. From what can be seen, they even live communally in the same buildings (no separate houses are shown), a feature that not all real communes have.
- Doonesbury had "Walden Commune".
- Verses from the New Testament's Book of Acts indicate that members of the early Christian church lived in communes. Acts 2:44-45 says of the early Christians: "And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need." Acts 4:32-37 goes into further detail, describing how all possessions were held in common. Rich believers who owned houses and land sold the proceeds and gave them to the apostles. The first ten verses of Acts 5 describe Ananias and Sapphira, two believers who sold their land but kept some of the proceeds for themselves. After Peter confronts them, they fall over dead. Numerous later Christians (and non-Christians at times) have taken inspiration from this idea. The famous "To each according to his ability, to each according to his need" for one, is traced back to it. Anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon used this is an inspiration for his works, and the slogan was then taken up by communists, socialists etc. The entire verse has of course also served as inspiration to many Christian groups who lived communally.
- Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas has a community of violent survivalists.
- Jillian's original Side was one under her father King Banhammer. Or as close as you can get in a world that is a 4X wargame. They had three cities, all in a single mountain valley, and they never attacked their neighbors. They had a Predictamancer to tell when enemy units were getting too close, and a Foolamancer to veil their cities one at a time when necessary. They had farms and mines for basic upkeep, but still had to hire themselves out for mercenary work (to distant Sides that had never heard of them) to make ends meet. The bubble kingdom would likely have eventually collapsed under the economics of the world sooner rather than later, but in the end it fell when Wanda Firebaugh convinced an idiot warlord named Stanley to attack. She assumed he'd just get croaked, but when she realized he actually had a chance to win, she joined him and brought down the capital from within.
- In the Magic Kingdom, the barbarian Hippiemancers do a smaller scale version. There are three distinct groups under the Hippiemancer umbrella: The Florists, the Signamancers, and the Date-A-Mancers. The services of the Florists are in moderate demand due to their ability to grow food and recreational drugs, but the Signamancers don't get much work, and the Date-A-Mancers get almost none. Therefore, wealth is shared equally between all residents so that no one is in danger of disbanding due to lack of upkeep, and on the rare occasions where they have extra money, they donate it to outsiders who need it.
- The Simpsons. In "D'oh-in in the Wind", it is revealed that at some point, Homer's mother Mona started spending time at a commune with two hippies, Seth and Munchie.
- The Adamite nudist free-love communes go back to the 2nd century.
- Several communal societies were tried in the United States in the 19th century, including the Shakers, the Harmony Society, and the Oneida community. Oneida has an afterlife as (this is true) a silverware company. It's also famous for practicing free-love and generally being rather hippie-ish despite existing 100 years too early. Robert Dale Owen (D-IN), anti-slavery activist, birth control/women's rights advocate and Spiritualist, helped to found the New Harmony commune in Indiana.
- The United Order, in Mormonism, founded in 1831, was an attempt in this as was a pre-Mormon commune called "The Family" begun as part of the Christian Restoration movement.
- The famous Paris Commune of 1871 was another example. It involved the city being declared independent of France and forming an anarcho-socialist government without leaders, with property nationalized, wealth redistributed, women given property rights and secular education for all. It was brutally crushed in the famous Bloody Week in the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian War.
- Many anarcho-pacifist vegetarian communes were founded worldwide in the 1890s and 1900s based on the ideas of Leo Tolstoy as set out in his book The Kingdom of God Is Within You. Mahatma Gandhi was inspired by this and had his own Tolstoyan commune for a time. Tolstoy didn't really believe in communes as such, as his ideals could be lived anywhere, but he did start a farm on his family's estate to raise food for famine relief (you can see it in The Last Station). There are still Tolstoyan communes today.
- In 1897, artist and Tolstoyan anarchist Karl Diefenbach founded the Himmelhof (Heavenly Courtyard) commune near Vienna. They had nudism, polyamory and vegetarianism, rejecting traditional Christianity in favor of living in divine harmony with nature. In Russia around that same time, it was the Doukhobors.
- Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong imposed agricultural collectivization in the Soviet Union in the 1930s and China in the 1950s. Prior to them, numerous socialists and anarchists had also advocated/set up communes as well.
- Months before the alleged "Summer of Love" in 1967, so many predators — especially coke and meth dealers — had moved in on the Haight-Ashbury district having heard of the coming influx of kids,note that real hippies were starting to leave. Many bought land in rural areas, established single-family farms, collective farms or communes. They practiced organic farming, reclaimed rural skills, started the Back to the Land movement and founded Mother Earth News (which actually coined the phrase "back to the land"). This magazine, which still exists, created a sub-Trope Namer for hippies as having "left the cities, moved to Oregon, mellowed out and raised potatoes." You can read about them in Carter Taylor Seaton's book Hippie Homesteaders about the many who made West Virginia their home, Michael Watts' West of Eden about northern California, and Margaret Grundstein's Naked in the Woods, narrating the unvarnished and messy reality of building a successful (or not) community in said environment. Vermont Public Radio remembers the Vermont communes; the independent newspaper Seven Days has a more in-depth article on Vermont here.
- The Children of God, today's Family International, founded in 1968, used to live in communes, initially called "colonies", under the authority of "Shepherds"; nowadays they are more relaxed about this rule and allow some members to live on their own.
- Auroville, India, founded in 1968, is a town where the members are expected to fill the community chest either in cash or in kind.
- The Diggers were a Christian communist group started in the mid 17th century, who founded a commune at St George's Hill in 1649, which lasted a few months before being broken up by violent harassment from the landowners in the area, culminating in an outright assault by the Army.
- The San Francisco Diggers of the 1960s were named for this group. While they didn't necessarily live together, they were nonviolent anarchists who firmly believed in finding realistic methods to establish a totally free economy without property ownership. They collected and gave away still-good food thrown away by restaurants and grocery stores, ran "free stores", published literature and put on plays illustrating their beliefs. A similar group in the UK founded by labor activist Sid Rawle did start several communes, some funded by John Lennon.
- Drop City, founded by art students in Colorado in 1965, lasted about ten years. Their most recognizable feature was the houses. They were Fullerdomes built from metal salvaged from junk cars (Buckminster Fuller loved it. He sent them a huge donation). The Zomeworks solar energy company and the Zometool construction kit were created by founder Steve Baer.
- Myrtle Hill in Vermont also had geodesic domes. Kate Daloz' book We Are As Gods emphasizes that the do-nothing layabout hippie is a stereotype. Bernie Sanders, visiting to do a study on natural childbirth, was kicked out for sitting around engaging in political/philosophical discussions, keeping the residents from getting stuff done.
- Needmore, in Brown County, Indiana, founded in the 1960s by the wealthy Canada family, was less a commune than a co-op, likewise today's thriving Lothlorien Nature Sanctuary in Lawrence County.
- Twin Oaks in Louisa, Virginia is still around after 40 years. They make hammocks and soy products.
- Morningstar, founded in 1966 by music promoter Lou Gottlieb, was originally intended as a peaceful place for a few people to live quietly, raise food and meditate, closer to an Ashram. The influx of "Summer of Love" runaways, encouraged by the Diggers who thought the kids could work on and expand the farm to provide free food for their giveaways, ended that serenity. Morningstar still managed to last into 1973, albeit with police hassles, serious overcrowding, unsanitary conditions and general chaos. It's likely few people remember anything about Morningstar except that there was a large contingent of perpetually naked women. They used to unnerve police by politely greeting them at the gate.
- Holiday, in the Santa Cruz mountains, got started when the owner of a run-down resort offered to rent it to fifteen hippies who'd just lost their place in nearby Ben Lomond, for $500/ month if they would clean and repair the place. They did, and the owner was so impressed he let them stay there for free the first month. 45 or 50 people ended up living there, contributing to the rent through outside work and the usual cottage industry, with charitable donations from the Quakers. While LSD and other drugs were fine, Holiday was extremely strict; you had to pass a panel of coordinators to be accepted.
- The Hog Farm is still alive and well in 2014.
- Another commune still running strong is The Farm although it had kind of a rough start.
- And there's always Slab City, down in the California badlands east of San Diego.
- The Renaissance Commune, originally "Brotherhood of the Spirit", led by Spirit in Flesh frontman Michael Metelica, tried to revive a dying town with profitable industries before collapsing in the early 1980s.
- Also begun in 1983, Stonyfield Farm started as a school for organic/natural dairy farming.
- George Orwell's Homage to Catalonia described an anarcho-syndicalist commune in the title city that was finally crushed, not by the Francoist army but by the Stalinists. See Life & Labor Commune also.
- Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge attempted to turn all of Cambodia into one giant commune in the 1970s. The result was the Cambodian genocide which killed up to 25% of the population.
- Any monastery where monks or nunsnote make a vow of poverty (which means they can't own personal property) is effectively a functional commune. This applies not only to Christian varieties, as Hindu, Buddhist and Jain monastics also exist, with their own abbeys (these predate Christianity).
- Older Than Feudalism with the Pythagoreans among others in ancient Greece, who also had communes. Arguably Older Than Dirt too with most foraging peoples (which included all of humankind for the first twelve millennia or so) and those who still exist now as well. Generally, land is not privately owned, but held by the tribe, and resources shared (there's some personal property like clothes, weapons or tools though). This is often strictly enforced, and easier in a small, very close-knit group of course. Many theorists have said that about 150-200 people is the practical limit for communes, and this fits well with the size of many tribes too. Communists such as Marx even cited this "primitive communism" as proof of their theories.
- Confusingly to some, the word "commune" is also an old term for a municipality in France (the "Commune of Paris") Italy and the Nordic countries.