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Communitas is a Latin noun referring either to an unstructured community in which people are equal, or to the very spirit of community. It also has special significance as a loanword in cultural anthropology and the social sciences.

Communitas is an intense community spirit, the feeling of great social equality, solidarity, and togetherness. Communitas is characteristic of people experiencing liminality together. This term is used to distinguish the modality of social relationship from an area of common living. There is more than one distinction between structure and communitas. The most familiar is the difference of secular and sacred. Every social position has something sacred about it. This sacred component is acquired during rites of passages, through the changing of positions. Part of this sacredness is achieved through the transient humility learned in these phases, this allows people to reach a higher position.

Communitas is an acute point of community. It takes community to the next level and allows the whole of the community to share a common experience, usually through a rite of passage. This brings everyone onto an equal level, even if you are higher in position, you have been lower and you know what that is.

Turner (1969, Pg.132) distinguishes between:

  • existential or spontaneous communitas, the transient personal experience of togetherness
  • normative communitas, communitas organized into a permanent social system
  • ideological communitas, which can be applied to many utopian social models

Communitas as a concept used by Victor Turner in his study of ritual has been criticized by anthropologists. See John Eade & Michael J. Sallnow's Contesting the Sacred (1991)

Communitas is also the title of a book published in 1947 by the 20th-century American thinker and writer Paul Goodman and his brother, Percival Goodman, who is less well-known, but a thinker in his own right. Their book examines three kinds of possible societies: a society centered around consumption, a society centered around artistic and creative pursuits, and a society which maximizes human liberty. The Goodmans emphasize freedom from both coercion by a government or church and from human necessities by providing these free of cost to all citizens who do a couple of years of conscripted labor as young adults.

References

  • Turner, Victor. "Rituals and Communitas." Creative Resistance. 26 Nov. 2005 <http://citationmachine.net/>.
  • Eade & Sallnow, 'Contesting the Sacred' (1991)
  • Carse, James P. "The Religious Case Against Belief", Penguin, New York, 2008

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