ETYM French, from commun. Related to Common.
1. A body of people or families living together and sharing everything.
2. The smallest administrative district of several European countries (Belgium and France and Italy and Switzerland).
Group of people or families living together, sharing resources and responsibilities.
Communes developed from early 17th-century religious communities such as the Rosicrucians and Muggletonians, to more radical groups such as the Diggers and the Quakers. Many groups moved to America to found communes, such as the Philadelphia Society (1680s) and the Shakers, which by 1800 had ten groups in North America. The Industrial Revolution saw a new wave of utopian communities associated with the ideas of Robert Owen and Charles Fourier. Communes had a revival during the 1960s, when many small groups were founded. In 1970 it was estimated there were 2,000 communes in the US, and 100 in England.
The term also refers to a communal division or settlement in a communist country. In China, a policy of Mao Zedong involved the grouping of villages within districts (averaging 30,000 people); thus were cooperatives amalgamated into larger units, the communes. 1958 (the Great Leap Forward) saw the establishment of people's communes (workers' combines) with shared living quarters and shared meals. Communes organized workers' brigades and were responsible for their own nurseries, schools, clinics, and other facilities.
The term can also refer to the 11th-century to 12th-century association of burghers in N and central Italy. The communes of many cities asserted their independence from the overlordship of either the Holy Roman emperor or the pope, only to fall under the domination of oligarchies or despots during the 13th and 14th centuries.
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