Belgium and communes

2024-01-21 15:56:00 +0700 by Mark Smith

I published a link earlier about Brexit and free movement for UK citizens, so I've got Europe on the brain. I spent a lot of time growing up in Belgium. For the most part it was fine, good in a lot of ways. Not the best, not the worst, I liked that about the place. It was cool.

Belgium is made up of provinces, and the provinces are made up of communes. Communes are like councils in the UK. The smallest administrative unit of the state. Communes are geographic, as in the extend over a certain area, but each one also has an administrative office. Every once in a while you'd have to go there to do some adminstrative stuff. I went to the commune probably a handful of times during the entire time I was living in Belgium.

I didn't end up learning that much about Belgium history because I changed from a french speaking primary school to an english secondary school. There was zero history in primary school as far as I remember. What I learnt was just from actually being there, every day life, and there were a few meuseums with stuff about battles with blokes with hats on horses hundreds and hundreds of yesrs in the past. A tremendous bore in my opinion. I did learn how to speak french rather well so that was good. I can pick a good belgian beer. Not so useful these days now that I no longer drink alcohol.

But anyway, it occurred to me a few months ago isn't it odd that their smallest unit is the commune? What possible economic system would result in such a structure? I mean maybe it's a total co-incidence, but based just on the words alone, wouldn't you expect commune based societies to be created by communism?

I'm amazed that I never saw this connection before, but on the other hand I was a science and maths major. I was never interested in politics, economics, history or all that stuff. That's been a more recent thing. I guess it's just some sort of weird coincidence because the entire time I was there, no one mentioned it. Not in the schools, not in the bars, not in the sports camps, or churches. I lived there for 10 years. So others musn't have been thinking about it either. Communes were just communes, you grow up with that around you, end of story.

Next time I'm online, I'll need to look this up. It's super weird. I don't think they use communes in France by the way.

Update: Couldn't find anything via the regular web, so tried Google Bard. Turns out the term predates the creation of the state of Belgium. Usage started in 17th century, standardized across the region after the french revolution in 1789. Belgium was created in 1830.

Btw, this is the first time I've used a ChatGPT. I hope it's accurate. Sounds like it is. :)

Bard doesn't work with the internet archive so I've copied the full text of the answer:

Question: When did Belgium start using the term commune

The term "commune" has been used to refer to local administrative units in Belgium since the 17th century. However, it was not until the French Revolution of 1789 that the term was officially adopted and standardized across the country. In 1795, the French revolutionary government created the communes as the basic unit of local government in Belgium. This was part of a broader effort to centralize power and eliminate the old feudal system.

The communes were initially very small and fragmented, with many of them having only a few hundred inhabitants. However, over time they gradually merged and grew larger. Today, there are 581 communes in Belgium, ranging in size from the city of Antwerp with over 500,000 inhabitants to the rural commune of Vloesberg with only 70 inhabitants.

The communes are responsible for a wide range of local services, including:

The communes are governed by elected councils and mayors. The councils are responsible for making decisions about local affairs, while the mayors are responsible for implementing those decisions.

The term "commune" is also used in a more informal sense to refer to the local community or people who live in a particular commune. For example, someone might say "I'm from the commune of Leuven" to indicate that they are from the city of Leuven.

Here is a timeline of the use of the term "commune" in Belgium:

Note: The only fact relevant to the origin date that Bard was able to verify via matching google search results and listed in the "Checks Completed - Understand the Results" section, was the standardization following the french revolution. That was from this wikipedia page. I've bolded the relevant section above.

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