The Myth of Belgian Pragmatism in Comparative Perspective
Or why the Bruxellois Commute?
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Reformers in Brussels in the last half of the nineteenth century acknowledged that industrial production, in their capital, as in London, required a concentrated labor force. However, they feared the multitude of workers and their families huddled in shadowy hovels and massive tenements who threatened urban order in their municipality. By different routes,laborers in ever increasing numbers on both sides of the Channel have been encouraged to commute from jobs in urban centers out to the greenery of suburbs and the countryside. As the Belgian Socialist, Emile Vandervelde had foreseen, and the British writer and designer, William Morris’s had envisioned, there was a new way of living, for the working class as for the middle class where « one meets in the cities, but lives in the countryside. »
Polasky will look at urban planning against the backdrop of idealized rural images in her discussion of transportation and housing reform before the First World War, exploring the cooperation as well as the competition between government and the private sector in the struggle to control the built environment and its labor force. And finally asking, what are its consequences today of this pattern of national commuting?