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Politics of the Low Countries

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Issue 1, 2019 Expand all abstracts
Article

Do Characteristics of Consociational Democracies Still Apply to Belgian Parties?

Keywords Belgium, political parties, party membership, political participation, political representation
Authors Emilie Van Haute and Bram Wauters
AbstractAuthor's information

    Belgium has long been described as a typical case of a consociational or consensus democracy. This article aims at identifying whether political parties in Belgium share the internal characteristics of parties in consensus democracies: passive mass memberships, the importance of purposive and material incentives for joining, and representation of a clear subculture in the social and attitudinal profiles of their members and via overlapping memberships with related organizations. We mobilize longitudinal party membership data and party member surveys conducted in three different time periods. We show that pillar parties still exercise their role of mobilization and representation of societal segments, but these segments tend to become smaller over time. New parties offer alternative options of mobilization and representation, although not always in line with the specific institutional arrangements of consociational democracy.


Emilie Van Haute
Emilie Van Haute, Cevipol, Université libre de Bruxelles.

Bram Wauters
Bram Wauters, Research Group GASPAR, Ghent University.
Article

Consensus Democracy and Bureaucracy in the Low Countries

Keywords consensus democracy, bureaucracy, governance system, Lijphart, policymaking
Authors Frits van der Meer, Caspar van den Berg, Charlotte van Dijck e.a.
AbstractAuthor's information

    Taking Lijphart’s work on consensus democracies as our point of departure, we signal a major shortcoming in Lijphart’s focus being almost exclusively on the political hardware of the state structure, leaving little attention for the administrative and bureaucratic characteristics of governance systems. We propose to expand the Lijphart’s model which overviews structural aspects of the executive and the state with seven additional features of the bureaucratic system. We argue that these features are critical for understanding the processes of policymaking and service delivery. Next, in order to better understand the functioning of the Netherlands and Belgium as consensus democracies, we provide a short analysis of the historical context and current characteristics of the political-administrative systems in both countries.


Frits van der Meer
Frits van der Meer, Professor Institute Public Administration, Leiden University.

Caspar van den Berg
Caspar van den Berg, Campus Fryslân, University of Groningen.

Charlotte van Dijck
Charlotte van Dijck, PhD Fellow Research Foundation Flanders (FWO), KU Leuven Public Governance Institute.

Gerrit Dijkstra
Gerrit Dijkstra, Senior Lecturer, Leiden University.

Trui Steen
Trui Steen, Professor, KU Leuven Public Governance Institute.
Article

Transformative Welfare Reform in Consensus Democracies

Keywords consensus democracy, welfare state, social investment, transformative reform, Belgium and the Netherlands
Authors Anton Hemerijck and Kees van Kersbergen
AbstractAuthor's information

    This article takes up Lijphart’s claim that consensus democracy is a ‘kinder, gentler’ form of democracy than majoritarian democracy. We zoom in on contemporary welfare state change, particularly the shift towards social investment, and argue that the kinder, gentler hypothesis remains relevant. Consensus democracies stand out in regard to the extent to which their political institutions help to overcome the politically delicate intricacies of governing for the long term. We theorize the features that can help to solve the problem of temporal commitment in democracy through processual mechanisms and illustrate these with short case studies of the contrasting welfare state reform experiences in the Netherlands and Belgium.


Anton Hemerijck
Anton Hemerijck is Professor of Political Science and Sociology at the European University Institute (EUI) in Florence, Italy.

Kees van Kersbergen
Kees van Kersbergen is Professor of Comparative Politics at the Department of Political Science of Aarhus University, Denmark.
Literature review

Consensualism, Democratic Satisfaction, Political Trust and the Winner-Loser Gap

State of the Art of Two Decades of Research

Keywords consensualism, majoritarianism, political trust, satisfaction with democracy, Lijphart
Authors Tom van der Meer and Anna Kern
AbstractAuthor's information

    Lijphart (1999) argued that citizens tend to be more satisfied with democracy in consensual democracies than in majoritarian democracies and that the gap in democratic satisfaction between the winners and the losers of elections is smaller under consensualism. Twenty years on since then, this article takes stock of the literature on consensualism and political support. We find considerable ambiguity in the theoretical arguments and empirical evidence provided in this literature. Finally, we speculate on possible reasons for this ambiguity.


Tom van der Meer
Tom van der Meer, University of Amsterdam.

Anna Kern
Anna Kern, Ghent University.