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Communal Luxury: The Political Imaginary of the Paris Commune

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  250 ratings  ·  31 reviews
Reclaiming the legacy of the Paris Commune for the twenty-first century

Kristin Ross’s highly acclaimed work on the thought and culture of the Communard uprising of 1871 resonates with the motivations and actions of contemporary protest, which has found its most powerful expression in the reclamation of public space. Today’s concerns—internationalism, education, the future
Hardcover, 156 pages
Published April 7th 2015 by Verso (first published April 1st 2015)
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Dec 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
My second train book was The Road: Stories, Journalism, and Essays, however I switched to ‘Communal Luxury’ once I got to Grossman’s famous essay ‘The Hell of Treblinka’. I have read it several times before and, let me tell you, the experience is even more painful when you are on a train. I needed a break from the horror, so turned to this rather delightful little book of theory centred on the lived experience of the Paris Commune. It takes quite a different perspective to everything else I’ve ...more
Leonard Pierce
Oct 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics
I've made no secret of the fact that I think of the Paris Commune as one of the pivotal events in human history. It was not only one of the first, but still is one of the most audacious experiments in equality, freedom, and liberation from oppression that has ever taken place. One of its most remarkable qualities of this startling experiment of 1871 was its spontaneity; it is not that it had no precedents -- certainly it was operating on ideas that had been percolating around Europe for decades ...more
Oisín Gilmore
Jan 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
A lot of friends highly recommended this book. And it is good, but...

For the majority of my life, I'm 30 now and since I was 13, I have identified to varying degrees with the anarchist-communist political tradition.

This book is a great introduction to that, and as an introduction it does a number of interesting things. It locates the roots of this tradition in the historical context of the late nineteenth century. And it shows how the entire history of the left, the antecedents of both Leninism
Apr 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dunya-tarihi, sol
18 Mart -28 Mayıs 1871 tarihleri arasında yaşanan Komün deneyimi bu aralıktan çok daha uzun bir zamana etkisini yayar. Kristin Ross'un komün'ün kimi aktörlerinin düşüncelerini takiple anlamaya çalıştığı zamanın anlam dünyası bize de bir sürü şey söylüyor. "Hayalimiz bir toplum nasıl olurdu?" sorusunu tartışma yolunda ilham veriyor.

Paris Komünü duyumsanabilir olan bir deneyimdi. Komünde yaşama sanatı edinilecek, yaşamak "gündelik hayatın yüksek fikirlerden ayrılmadığı" bir hayat üslubuna
Geoffrey Fox
Dec 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is a collection of five deeply thought essays on distinct but overlapping debates regarding the Paris Commune of the spring of 1871, coming not to a unified conclusion but raising more sharply pointed questions about social aims and possibilities. There had been self-governing towns and village associations called "communes" since the middle ages, but it was a new and revolutionary conception that emerged in the wake of the French revolutions of 1789, 1830 and 1848, becoming a popular theme ...more
Michael Bellecourt
Aug 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sociology
If I'm being honest, I purchased this book because I was interested in the political IMAGERY of the Paris Commune, and was somewhat disappointed when I got to the second chapter and realised that it was about the political IMAGINARY. Nonetheless, I was hooked on the book, as I have come to regard as the life and death of the Commune as one of the most important events in modern western history. Here, in Ross's book, was one of the first instances of my being able to better perceive the minds of ...more
Feb 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is not a history of the Paris Commune!

Assuming at least basic familiarity with and understanding of the events of the Commune, the book proceeds to discuss the ideas that were born with and from it. It discusses the generation of ideas that would later become the foundation of anarchist communism and the way in which the Commune, simply through its own establishment, proved transformative to movements the world over. It makes a compelling argument about the ways in which theory and action
Maja Solar
Mar 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Such a wonderful book on Paris Commune and the changes of the aesthetic coordinates of the community (in Rancièrian perspective); on distinction between bourgeois, „useless“, senseless, „swinish“ luxury (driven by a system based on the overproduction of goods for profit) & communal luxury, „equality in abundance“; about the attempted emancipation of existing form & division of labor; on the prehistory and the echoes of Commune, its survivors and supporters like Elisabeth Dmitrieff, Marx, ...more
Apr 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Magnificent. A really great theoretical engagement with the political imaginary of the Paris Commune that takes the participants seriously. Ross is a really engaging writer, and Communal Luxury is a highly enjoyable read. The spatial/geographical bent to her work is also quite fresh. My copy of this ended up liberally highlighted, and is one of my favourite reads of 2018 so far.
Joseph Demakis
Good history book

It's a good history book but please that what is said with a grain of salt and get more information about the subject than what is provided in the book
Feb 20, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
The Paris Commune was an actually existing example of a communist society in the correct sense of the term - a stateless, egalitarian way of organizing individual and social life, where individuals were free to act and to associate themselves with other members of the commune for the realization of the necessary activities to carry out every day life. Workers of different trades and nationalities declared Paris to be the capital of France no more: it was now the fist commune of the Universal ...more
Timothy Dymond
May 09, 2016 rated it liked it
‘Communal Luxury’ means ‘equality in abundance - the achievement of which, according to Kristin Ross, would mean we had arrived in the world heralded by the Paris Commune during its brief reign in 1871. Ross attempts to set out what she argues is a neglected part of the Commune’s history: its political philosophy and the thoughts it inspired in others.

The aspects of ‘Commune-ism’ which interest Ross are its aesthetics, and its embrace of the ‘Universal Republic’. The aesthetic focus of the
Alfredo Bojórquez
Nov 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Fina y detallada lectura del imaginario de la Comuna de París, con todas las bisagras de los distintos proyectos que emanan de ella. Particularmente Kropotkin, Morris, Reclús, no sin antes revisar el final de Marx, quien quedó movido por la experiencia de la Comuna (y se puede notar en La guerra civil en Francia) para descentralizar el Estado de sus propuestas como se aclara en el prólogo del Manifiesto del Comunista en la última versión revisada por él mismo.

Se trata de una ecología de
Dec 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: urbanism, democracy
An attempt to redeem the memory of the significance of the Paris Commune from the Leninist legacy in the name of an eco-anarchist decentralizing but still internationalist communalism, specifically by spending time with how that tragic event was interpreted by William Morris, Peter Kropotkin, and the less well known Elisée Reclus. A lot of squared circles in this effort to create a useable past for a (worthwhile, perhaps) contemporary political project. These thinkers attempted to theorize after ...more
Jul 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Not a very good introductory text to the Commune; it doesn't really even summarize the main events. It is however, an extremely interesting exploration of the political thought of the Communards, and the effect the Commune had on existing revolutionary thinkers such as Kropotkin, Marx, and Morris. Particularly interesting are how much emphasis the Communards placed on what would later be termed social ecology or environmental socialism, as well as their emphasis on communal art and education ...more
Jun 27, 2015 rated it liked it
"[Kristin] Ross has written brilliantly of how French radical culture drew the lessons to be learned from the May, ’68 uprising. She’s written brilliantly of the ways French society in the postwar years reinvented itself in the image of American consumerism. Communal Luxury might have been equally brilliant had it been more questioning of the Commune’s own Imaginary, and of the concept of Imaginary itself..."

Full review at:
WOID: a journal of visual
Feb 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
This was really beautifully written. The history of the Paris Commune is a moving one and Ross puts a positive spin on what many propagandists would say was a failure of a revolution.
This book places us a few years back during Occupy and it's hopeful to see some of what we learned during that time still alive and thriving, if different and interesting to compare to the Commune. It's cool to see the seeds of people's (Marx, Reclus, Kropotkin...) philosophy forming. It makes you think how we too
Kevin Reuning
May 17, 2015 rated it liked it
An interesting take on the Paris Commune looking at what happened before and after. The book really hits its stride in the 4th chapter on the ideologies created out of the Paris Commune. Ross is able to link together those figures that participated in the Commune and then where they came together afterward.

The other interesting focus is on the role of action leading to theory. Ross connects theory to action in a very important way.

As she says, this book does not provide lessons but it does
Jacob Wren
Kristin Ross writes:

The logic of emancipation concerned concrete relations between individuals. The logic of the institution, on the other hand, is always nothing more than the indefinite reproduction of itself. Emancipation is not the result but the condition for instruction.


Time or temporality is a human, social construction, and as such is tainted by the contemporary biases and dominant prejudices of the moment - such as the idea that dominates our own time that one should accumulate the
Jun 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
I probably need to read this again to properly understand it and respond to it. It does suggest that much of what I'd previously read about the Commune was written from more of a right-wing perspective than I'd realized, which isn't surprising. The Paris Commune must be one of history's most unique and improbable events. If you don't have a love of French history, maybe you haven't learned about the Commune? Tragic end notwithstanding, this is inspiring history.
Jon Morgan
Jul 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
An energizing take on the Commune that tries to grasp the afterlife of the ideas given concrete form in Paris. Instead of rehearsing the well-worn communist vs. anarchist debate, Ross depicts the Commune as a parable, as an irruption into the dead life of nineteenth-century capitalism that requires thinking together the unexpected urban revolt alongside the hidden pasts and possible futures of human solidarity.
Mar 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
As much about the Commune's effect on outsiders like Kropotkin and Morris as it is about Communards themselves. Engages with ideas of art, learning, ecology, and wealth but doesn't go into the Commune's "working existence" as much as I'd hoped.
Sep 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Excellent, outstanding, one of the best reads I have run across in an age...and only 143 pages long. Tres bien...
Nov 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An interesting re-visiting of the Paris Commune (1871) by a mature scholar. Interesting and unique book. Highly recommended!
Sarah Jaffe
May 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Aptly named. Reading this book felt like a luxury.
Dec 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
Very readable look at how the Paris Commune shaped the thought of Peter Kropotkin, William Morris, Marx, and the French geographer Élisée Reclus.
Joan Selhi
Jun 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I have always been obsessed with Paris after growing up there in the 1950 s. Growing up right in the center behind Place Vendôme. I have magnificent memories and appreciate with admiration Kristin”s Ross interprétation that brings about an understanding of the great divide between the haves and have nots. In fact the great divide In the world being that Communism and Capitalism started right in the epicenter of Paris before Karl Marx’s theory idea spread out to the rest of the world ...more
May 01, 2019 rated it it was ok
Mostly insufferable -- it's the kind of book that literally just says a political-historiographic opinion and pretends like it's a "fact". Lots of this or that person felt this or that way about the Commune, essentially as if they're an omniscient narrator rather than a freaking historian. The 1 star above the minimum is because there are some great references in the footnotes... I would just read those, and only the ones citing other works
Naomi Colvin
Jan 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Engaging reassessment of the Paris commune that seeks to reclaim it from both the state communist and French republican traditions and show its relevance to contemporary political movements and (especially) occupations.

Ross counters the most established narratives of the Commune (Lissagaray et al), which tend to look the political play by play rather than how the Communards themselves explained what they were doing. And, in doing so, she does unpick a lot that sounds distinctly contemporary.

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Kristin Ross is a professor of comparative literature at New York University. She is the author of numerous books, including Fast Cars, Clean Bodies: Decolonization and the Reordering of French Culture and May '68 and its Afterlives.