Frisians - Sociopolitical Organization



Social Organization. There is a basic distinction between rural and town-based Frisians, with greater status accorded to the town dwellers. Communalism, necessitated by the demands of the environment (i.e., the need to build and maintain the extensive system of canals, dikes, and drainage ditches), is reinforced by the concept of buorreplicht (Neighbor's duty) —a part of Frisian folk law that appears in the Lex Frisionum of Charlemagne—which requires that neighbors provide assistance to one another when the occasion demands it. By extension, neighbors are expected to attend one another's life-cycle events (weddings, funerals, etc). Neighbor relations, rather than kinship ties, are the principal Vehicle for the formation of larger cooperative groups in Frisian society.


Political Organization. Modern Frisian political organization derives from the thirty gemeenten, or countylike communities, and the "Eleven"—the Frisian cities established as independent of county governance during medieval times. Decisions requiring action or imposing obligations on the Frisian people as a whole are made by forty-one appointed representatives (one for each county and one for each of the cities). The highest-ranking official in Friesland is also appointed—that is the queen's commissioner, who acts as a liaison between the province and the federal government.

Social Control. Frisian folk law was laid down in written form as part of Charlemagne's Lex Frisionum in A.D. 801-802, and it provides the formal means for the adjudication and mediation of conflicts within Frisian society. Informal mechanisms of social control are those common to many village communities: gossip, joking, ridicule, and other expressions of public disapproval for an individual's social transgressions.

Conflict. Friesland is but one province within the larger national entity of the Netherlands, and thus it does not have autonomy in relating to other nation-states. While enjoying a great deal of provincial autonomy within the Netherlands, it is subject to the national government's policy decisions Concerning foreign relations, alliances, and disputes.


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