Communitarian Sharing Lifestyles

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David de Ugarte:

"Sharing as a lifestyle = Communitarianism: Putting sharing at the center of life itself and not only of business or city models, has been, since Antiquity, the objective of the communitarian movement and the focus of its experience.

Intentional Communities

Since the meaning of “community” is so different depending on the cultural and ideological context of the person using it, the concept of “intentional community,” born in the USA, has a certain bias that makes it difficult to comprehend outside of Anglo-Saxon culture. Generally, it is used for groups that, normally bound by a common social or religious ideology, and moved by the desire to live under under certain “community standards,” decide to build a town together, inhabit the same neighborhood, or share a house. This almost never means that they share ownership of the houses more than temporarily, and only on very rare occasions do they work together in a cooperative or businesses owned in common. At the center of the idea of the “intentional community” is “community standards,” values and rules of shared co-existence in a given place. The creators of this kind of community create them to live in accordance with them, and normally, the most important part of the foundation is the founders designing of the set of norms, neighborly practices, and decision-making systems that they will use in their coexistence. That is why it turns out to be clearer to separate “intentional communities” from the communities of shared economy.

  • Cohousing. A term (the English word is not translated in Spanish) that describes communities with services and facilities shared among homeowners. Influenced by the ideas of the German social-democratic theoretician August Bebel, since the beginning of the twentieth century, a part of social housing and housing cooperatives in Germany, Austria, Holland and other European countries begin to incorporate common services: kitchen, dining room, kindergarten, laundry room, etc.- as a way of building interaction and commitment between their members over time. The model endures up to today, having spread to the USA (where it took its current name) and shaped neighborhood buildings custom-designed to develop a community social life of their own.

  • Ecovillages. A term that arose in the nineties to talk about settlements founded on “community standards,” whose objective is to minimize the environmental impact of the group. Ecovillages were created out of more or less sophisticated versions of housing cooperatives, with the group as a whole buying the lands, and later dividing it up among the members, normally after building a certain amount of basic infrastructure.

  • Thematic cities and towns. Beyond ecovillages, reconstructed or recovered towns, new settlements and even “experimental” cities like the famous “Auroville” in India or “Celebration,” the town created by Disney within their initiative called “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow” (EPCOT), work under a similar model, which mixes private property with a rigid “internal constitution” that seeks to maintain the continuity and integrity of a given community experience.

Egalitarian communities

This is the name for communities that hold resources that sustain it in common, starting with the land, and including the facilities and the product of the labor of their members. The distribution is carried out jointly as a function of the needs of each of members. They are mostly ruled by decision-making systems based on consensus.

  • Income-sharing communities. These are communities that share the ownership of housing — normally a large house, a building or a group of small buildings — in which members put their revenue into a common fund. Although this kind of community was born and became stable in Israel in the ’70s, it soon spread across Germany and the Nordic countries. Their members not only seek a community life, but completely mutualize life risks and create strong solidarity networks. The model spread to the US with the real-estate crisis, when groups of youth were able to buy buildings at a low cost and establish themselves in them.

  • Productive communities. These are egalitarian communities that not only share their income, but also produce together. They are the product of the egalitarian European idea according to which the center of society, and therefore of social problems, is in production and in the manner in which things are produced. That’s why the idea of producing together — which means “learning together” — under a structure of shared responsibilities, distributing the result according to the needs of every one, is the common element of the communitarian model, which has been followed by egalitarian colonies of the nineteenth century, Israeli kibbutzim, and the large networks of European and American egalitarian communities of today.

  • Agrarian communities. The most widespread model in Germany and Austria, in the Francophone world, and USA. These are agrarian settlements that, while they have developed industry and services, like the famous Twin Oaks community in Virginia or Nieder Kaufungen in Germany, continue to have a strong agricultural component and their life, products and relationship with their surroundings are marked by being outside of big cities.

  • Urban communities. These were born at the beginning of the twenty-first century, associated with the development of cooperativism of new technological services and with the idea of phyle, first in the Spanish-speaking world and later in the US. In both places, they are groups born out of conversation on the Internet. They produce services and products of high value added linked to the green economy, the direct economy or P2P production. Over the long term, their social model is focused on building broader transnational networks with other agrarian and urban egalitarian communities, but also with cooperatives and small enterprises, to all together develop autonomous systems of social protection for their members."