This descriptive and exploratory study examines the consensus process in four cohousing communities in the greater San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley metropolitan statistical area. Out of the four sites, ten residents were interviewed and talked about the social life in cohousing, communal meetings, consensus, and community conflict and harmony. In trying to uncover the residents' understanding of these themes I recorded and transcribed each interview. These were then coded and each of the major themes were reported and discussed. The themes most relevant to the residents' understanding of consensus were selected and analyzed according to Lefebvre's sociospatial theory and Habermas' theory of communicative action. Both sociospatial theories and communicative action formed the basis for evaluating whether each cohousing community's consensus process and its structures, as well as the consensually-agreed to proposals and lifeworld build a sense of community. The results of this analysis suggest that in two sites the consensus self-management there builds a strong sense of community. In another site it builds a sense a community but only for those who actively participate in it. At the last site no sense of community was built from the consensus self-governance there. A second aim of the research was to use the concepts of Lefebvrian "differential space" and the Habermasian "liberated areas" that use communicative action to evaluate cohousing communities as radical space. Through evaluation it was determined that according to neither theories are cohousing communities radical. Instead they are simply democratic social spaces for the residents to enjoy the full benefits of a liberal property owning culture but live more socially and democratically with others.


Fitz Gibbon, Heather


Sociology and Anthropology


Demography, Population, and Ecology | Politics and Social Change

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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