Second-Wave Cohousing: A Modern Utopia?

By Sargisson, Lucy | Utopian Studies, January 2012 | Go to article overview

Second-Wave Cohousing: A Modern Utopia?


Sargisson, Lucy, Utopian Studies


ABSTRACT

Cohousing is an increasingly popular form of tenure that combines elements of private and collective ownership and affords its occupants a combination of the advantages of individual proprietorship with some of the benefits of living in a community that shares some of its space and activities. People join cohousing groups because they believe that there is something wrong with life in most villages, towns, and cities and they want to develop a better alternative. Sometimes this has been seen to articulate a utopian aspiration to secure a better way of living, of the kind more normally associated with self-consciously intentional communities. But many influential spokespeople in the contemporary cohousing movement, in North America particularly, deny this association and take an explicitly anti-utopian stance, distancing cohousing from the communal movement and intentional communities. This article undertakes an examination of cohousing in North America today and asks the following questions: What is the real character of people's lived experience with modern cohousing? Why do people choose cohousing? Is it a form of intentional community? Is it utopian? Or is it just an attractive form of housing tenure for people who want a nice place to live with good neighbors?

Cohousing is an increasingly popular form of tenure that combines elements of private and collective ownership and affords its occupants a combination of the advantages of individual proprietorship with some of the benefits of living in a community with shared space and activities. It offers ways of owning property and organizing domestic life that are different from the way that most Western urbanites live today. For example, cohousing communities have entrance and exit rules and formalized internal activities and codes of behavior. People join them because they believe that there is something wrong with life in most villages, towns, and cities and they want to develop a better alternative. Members are seeking a more "neighborly" or "community-oriented" way of life. Sometimes this has been seen to articulate a utopian aspiration to secure a better way of living, of the kind more normally associated with self-consciously intentional communities. But influential spokespeople in the contemporary cohousing movement (in North America particularly) deny this association and take an explicitly anti-utopian stance, distancing cohousing from the communal movement and intentional communities. This article undertakes an examination of cohousing in North America today and asks the following questions: What is the real character of people's lived experience with modern cohousing? Is it a form of intentional community? Is it utopian? Or is it just an attractive form of housing tenure for people who want a nice place to live with good neighbors?

The discussion opens with working definitions of utopianism and intentional community. I then look briefly at "first-wave" cohousing in Europe, a movement that dates from the 1970s and which had explicitly utopian elements. I next seek to contrast this with attitudes in the contemporary "second-wave" cohousing movement in North America. I suggest that the characterization of this more recent movement as "anti-utopian" is an oversimplification. While some influential accounts of the North American cohousing experience, most important, the agenda-setting work of the architects Katherine McCamant and Charles Durrett, emphasize its anti-utopian character, this is a very partial view. My survey of attitudes in fifty North American cohousing communities shows that this newer form of cohousing (its second wave) is a form of intentional community and does display some utopian tendencies. The article concludes by suggesting that this might be a truly modern utopia: one that seeks the good life without challenging mainstream values.

Utopianism: A Working Definition

Utopia is a contested concept, but in this article I will adhere to certain conventional usages. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Second-Wave Cohousing: A Modern Utopia?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.