The Netherlands: Subnational Democracy and the Reinvention of Tradition

Frank Hendriks and Linze Schaap

in The Oxford Handbook of Local and Regional Democracy in Europe

Published in print November 2010 | ISBN: 9780199562978
Published online January 2011 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Politics & International Relations

The Netherlands: Subnational Democracy and the Reinvention of Tradition

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  • Regional Political Studies
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Cities and towns played a key role in the history of state formation in the Netherlands. From the Spanish Habsburgs to the Burgundians, the Netherlands have attempted to achieve centralization and concentration of the powerful with little success. However in 1848, J. R. Thorbecke was commissioned by the king to draft a new constitution. This led to the formation of a Thorbeckean system which focused on a decentralized unitary state that still exists today. Its unitary nature is not based on a centralized government structure, but on agreement among the three active components of the state: central government, provinces, and local authorities. The Thorbeckean system is an association of mutually restricting bodies designed to work freely. This concept of government has influenced the political and governmental structure of the Netherlands. This article discusses the Dutch government system, its efforts of reforming subnational democracy and reinventing interactive policy-making, and local politics. Of its efforts to reform the democracy at the local and regional level, the most significant move of the Dutch government is the reinvention of interactive policy-making or network governance and co-production. This move towards interactive policy-making is a reinvention of tradition rather than reinvention of the government. While the move is a retrace of a tradition, the Dutch government nevertheless have added new elements as well.

Keywords: Netherlands; Thorbecke; Thorbeckean system; decentralized unitary state; central government; provinces; local authorities; government; democracy

Article.  10168 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; Regional Political Studies ; Comparative Politics

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