Refers to either a group of people sharing life and work, a utopian community in which members attempt to found a new social order, based on a vision of an ideal society; or to a territorial administrative unit, originally used in the French Revolution to refer to a subdivision of a canton, introduced in 1792. The latter usage was adopted by the Jacobin regime of 1793-4, extended to other insurrectionist bodies such as the Paris Commune of 1871, and to several other countries including Italy. In the post-war period it has also referred to Chinese units of territorial administration and Israeli kibbutzim .
However, sociological interest in communes focuses mainly on the commune in the first sense; namely, the attempt to create new, shared, egalitarian living and working relationships. Among the questions posed by these experiments is whether behavioural patterns and power relations (such as those based on gender) are significantly transformed in a more socially egalitarian context. Andrew Rigby (Alternative Realities, 1973) has offered a useful six-fold typology of communes: self-actualizing communes offer members the opportunity to create a new social order by realizing their full potential as individuals within the context of the communal group; communes for mutual support attempt to promote a sense of solidarity that members feel they have been unable to discover in the world at large; activist communes provide an urban base from which members can venture forth to involve themselves in social and political activity in the outside world; practical communes define their purpose at least partly in terms of the economic and other material advantages they offer to members; therapeutic communes, as the name implies, offer some form of care and attention to those who are considered to have particular needs; and religious communes are defined by their members primarily in religious terms. These categories are, of course, not mutually exclusive.

Dictionary of sociology. 2013.


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