Dutch - Sociopolitical Organization



Social Organization. Although the standard of living is high, it is lower than in some neighboring countries. The burden of taxation is heavy, making considerable collective expenditures possible and resulting in an excellent set of social services. The media, labor unions, public organizations, associations, and club life are defined by the typical Dutch phenomenon of pillarization. Dutch society is characterized by complex social stratification, based on partly converging and partly conflicting criteria. As far as political and economic power relations are concerned, tokens of nineteenth-century class society can still be found in modern Dutch society. However, regional, religious, ethnic affiliation, and life-style factors modify social and economic class differences. The Netherlands is famous for tolerance toward ethnic minorities. Since World War II, Dutch society has developed into a multiethnic society. The persistent flood of allochthonous People, coupled with a growing unemployment rate, however, causes more and more tension and conflict.

Political Organization. In the nineteenth century parliamentary democracy emerged. The monarch, subject to the constitution, is head of state. The Dutch Lower Chamber is constituted by direct elections by all enfranchised Dutch citizens, while the Dutch Upper Chamber is elected by the provincial states. A political breakthrough happened in 1918 when general elections were established; from that time on the seats in the Lower Chamber were held by representatives of political parties. Dutch political life is characterized by a large number of small political parties competing for votes. Since 1900, when party politics emerged, an average of eleven parties have been represented in parliament each term. The most important movements in Dutch political life have been liberalism, denominationalism, and socialism.

Social Control. During the Dutch republic (sixteenth to nineteenth centuries) Dutch village life was relatively unrestricted by the central government. Within the village Community, however, mechanisms of social control operated. Social mobility was low and social stratification kept people in their places. Consolidation of property formed an Important consideration in marriage arrangements. There were almost no illegitimate children. When a girl got pregnant, strong social pressure was exerted on her to marry, especially in Protestant areas. The authority of the older generation was respected. The moral demands of diligence and austerity were internalized and determined the attitude toward life of both young and old. Calvinism, especially north of the big rivers, intensified this propensity as well as the rejection of amusement and diversion. Although city life was less restrained, Dutch mentality, characterized by a strong sense of values, put a check on urban allure. Thus, the image of the Dutch people as tidy, diligent, and hard-working citizens does have historical roots. Since the 1960s, however, the image of the Dutch has changed. The Netherlands has made headlines as the country of the Provo movement (the organized provocative behavior of young people against the authorities, which manifested itself especially in Amsterdam in 1965-1967), insubordinate bishops, long-haired soldiers with their own trade union, and permissiveness in drug use and pornography. The country is famous for its high rate of petty crime, blurred standards, squatting, and civil disobedience—phenomena that the international press has labeled "the Dutch disease."

Conflict. At home the Netherlands has witnessed a Peaceful development through the ages. In political and social life, physical violence was the exception. The pillarized society was characterized by a pacific policy at home. Violence was applied in the process of colonization and in colonial wars abroad. In the twentieth century the situation has reversed: the Netherlands has tried to take a strictly neutral position in external armed conflict (World War I and World War II); at home pacification relations have given way to occasionally violent conflicts between social and ethnic groups, between generations, and between pressure groups.


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