The term “real community” can be applied to any perfectly distributed cluster or social network — which is to say, where all members relate to all others in a non-hierarchical setting — that shares a sustained, voluntary interaction over time (deliberation) and where members recognize a common identity in the others.
The essential thing for the appearance of a community is the existence of an interaction (deliberation) that is powerful enough for common contexts to develop (and therefore, generally, some kind of understanding, knowledge or shared experience).
It is this particular knowledge that settles out in common contexts, and that produces the recognition of being part of something in common, which is to say, an identity that reaffirms that enjoyment of being together.
This unity of identity and the enjoyment of being together is what we call fraternity, which is the base of all community life.
History of the term
Although already the Pythagorians had experimented with their own design of community life, surely Epicurus and Epicureanism were the first in theorize it. Epicurean communities coexisted with other community movements like Mithraism, of Stoic inspiration, and survived until the fifth century, when the final imposition of Christianity definitively eliminated them or absorbed them into the monastic movement.
The political use of the term did not appear until the Middle Ages, when, between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries, across Europe, the Arts gained political autonomy for cities. A completely novel form of legitimizing power was inaugurated: The magistrates of the burgs exercised their power in the name of the communitas (community) or the universitas civium (all of citizens), and not in the name of the civil prince or of the Church. This community is grounded in fraternity that unites artisans among each other.
The community, however, wasn’t defined in a banal way. On the contrary, it required an identity and strong material relationships between each one with the whole. As Pirenne points out:
In the cities where there were courts, as well as in those lacking them, citizens were a body, a community whose members were all in solidarity with each other. Nobody was a bourgeois without paying the municipal oath, which linked him closely with the rest of the bourgeois. His person and property belonged to the city, and both could be, at any time, required if need be. You could not conceive the bourgeois in isolation, nor was it possible, in primitive times, to conceive of man individually. At the time of the barbarians, one was considered a person thanks to the family community to which one belonged, and one was a bourgeois, in the Middle Ages, thanks to the urban community that one was part of.
In the Iberian Peninsula, the revolt of the comuneros of 1520 also inititated the political use of the word community as a synonym for revolt. And even though, in fact, the Castillian community is an assembly in the style of the medieval bourgeois commons and its plural does not represent anything other than the coordination of the different urban assemblies, in Spanish, it comes to mean, purely and simply, political revolution. So Quijote warns Sancho on the way to Barataria:
[T]hy subjects will take the government from thee, or they will make communities among them.
And Quevedo, the greatest glory of Iberian reactionarism of all the times, gives “comunero” (“communard”) as a synonym for seditious, and the Dictionary of the Real Academia Española records his definition of the term as:
Uprising and insurrections of peoples against their Lord
Recent blog posts
- Fraternity, Subversion, Pigs, and Asparagus, about Epicureanism.
- Community and happiness, about Epicurean communities
- Fraternitas mercatorum, about the concept of community, fraternity and its emergence within the medieval urban democracies.
- Community and personality, about the concept of community in Alfred Adler’s works