Call of the Commune

My friends and I often joke about packing up and leaving the city to buck the trend by pooling our resources for commune living. Our joke has even gone so far as to have people picking out their desired roles & responsibilities within our made up pseudo-society. This musing isn’t unique to us; there is a trend towards a broader, global awakening to take back autonomy and rebel against the woes of the current housing crisis. With a wave of homestead and commune videos or posts celebrating the shift from urban isolation to rural collectivism, the appeal is unmistakable. This recent iteration of commune living marries the charm of yesteryear’s hippie simplicity with today’s digital necessities, including off-grid energy and high-speed internet. It’s our collective rebuttal to the relentless hustle culture and hyper-individualism that defines current societal norms. Amidst the commodification of, well everything, from housing to the extremes of personal identities for social media, a commune lifestyle seems to offer a sanctuary. A slower pace of life where real in person connections flourish over the digital & impersonal transactions of our modern lives.

urban village concept – intentional commons design

Confronting the Commodification Quandary

The notion of “it takes a village” resonates now more than ever as we navigate the commodification of living spaces, where housing is wholly seen as an investment, a commodity more than a home. The shift from communal living to the nuclear family paradigm, a product of post-world-war construction boom and urban planning, has contributed significantly to this disconnection. The transformation of cityscapes has prioritised commercial over communal needs, exacerbating the isolation felt by many. As we stand at this crossroads, the growing disenchantment shown by the “Not In My Backyard” or the NIMBY mentality exemplifies how we have shifted from thinking in terms of ourselves as part of the whole but focus rather on individuality and only how things affect us. The rise of longing for inclusive spaces signifies a readiness for change. The Aussie classic movie “The Castle”, in which a family goes through a fight for fair compensation against corporate greed, highlights the darker side of overzealous development consuming all in its path, underscoring the necessity for a balanced, community-first approach in urban planning.

Redefining Value in the Capitalist Maze

The relentless pursuit of profit has narrowed the scope of innovation to serve only those who can afford it, sidelining the collective good. This system, which once promised a dream of leisure and prosperity for hard work, has increasingly shown its flaws, particularly to Millennials and Gen Z. Our disillusionment isn’t with ambition but with a system that values profit over people, leading to the current crisis of a housing market that is inaccessible for many and openly hostile to others. The resurgence of commune living and the embrace of lifestyles like homesteading and van life aren’t just trends; they’re acts of defiance against a culture that seeks to commodify all aspects of society even down to our very existence. The information age has provided younger generations with a wealth of information that flies directly in the face of the narrative that a meritocratic western dream is still even desirable let alone attainable. Taking back control of the basic human needs of food and shelter is the first logical step on a journey to a collective consciousness working towards a reclamation of autonomy and self determination that is currently being squeezed out of us through this commodification and the systemic need for ever increasing profits.

The Rebirth of Third Places

Closely related with this generational mind shift lies the revival of “third places” — communal spaces outside of home and work where in-person interactions flourish. These spaces have been disappearing as places like parks and libraries become deprioritised in favour of commercial buildings & developments driven by a lens of economic value alone. Bringing back spaces that are freely available and specifically designed to foster community, rather than push a product, seems more pressient than ever. These vibrant, inclusive environments become the backbone of our neighbourhoods, fostering a sense of belonging and connection lost in the hustle of modern life. The embrace of these spaces signifies a move towards a society where social bonds are nurtured, providing a counterbalance to the isolation felt in our increasingly digital lives. It’s in these third places that we rediscover the art of conversation, the joy of unplanned encounters, and the strength of community ties, reaffirming the human need for genuine connection.

A Middle Ground Awakens

As daunting as the housing crisis seems for younger generations, there lies a glimmer of hope in the form of cohousing and shared living spaces. Far from the dormitory-like image that initially springs to mind where an over eager landlord has shoved five extra beds into a studio apartment; these modern intentional initiatives are balancing private homes with shared communal spaces interconnected in medium density spaces. This is not a retreat from society but a reimagining of it, where initiatives like Nightingale showcase the viability of affordable, community-centric urban living. Their work exemplifies that there is another way, that building not-for-profit is possible and sustainable for the long term. Cohousing also embodies this shift, promoting a model where private and shared spaces coexist, fostering a sense of community without sacrificing individuality. These movements are not just about creating viable alternatives to the status quo but about reconstructing the very fabric of our communities to reflect values of cooperation, sustainability, and inclusivity.

The Journey Forward

As we navigate this collective journey, it’s clear that the longing for community, autonomy, and a meaningful connection to each other  to the land is more than a passing whim; it’s a profound shift in how we envision our futures. This path isn’t merely about escaping the grind but about redefining success, value, and happiness in terms that resonate with our deepest communal instincts. It’s a call to action for all of us to rethink our priorities, values, and the legacy we wish to leave for generations to come.

Anthem for Hope

Beneath the weight of sky-high rents, a whisper of hope quietly ascends.
From shared struggles, new dreams are spun, a gentle revolution, quietly begun.
In unity, we find our strength, a brighter path for us at length.
Where every soul can freely breathe, and in shared gardens, peace we weave.

This reimagined narrative isn’t just an optimistic outlook; it’s a roadmap for Millennials and Gen Z as we confront the challenges of commodification and hyperindividualism. It’s a testament to the resilience of communal spirit and a call to reclaim not just our spaces but our collective soul.


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