Lecture

8 November 2007

The Temperature of the Netherlands

The social climate of the Netherlands—its “temperature,” if you will—has changed. As Paul Schnabel argues, after a period of political calm and general contentment with the “poldermodel”—admired throughout the entire western world—in 2001/2002, the less pleasant side of things suddenly became impossible to ignore. A large group of Dutch citizens, who had been invisible up until then, began to voice their feelings of being abandoned by politics. At the same time, the settling of more and more immigrants in large Dutch cities led to heightened tensions and the traditional political parties were no longer capable of convincing large parts of the electorate to vote for them. The attacks on the Twin Towers in New York on September 11, the murder of politician Pim Fortuyn, and the transition from a period of boom to economic downturn contributed to an overall feeling of dissatisfaction, insecurity, and discomfort. Five years later, the climate has changed again, but a return to the feeling of satisfaction from before the turn of the century is out of the question. From an economic point of view, we are enjoying a period of boom, and on the political front a sense of calmness has returned; however the atmosphere is different and the tone of social debate is notably critical. The Dutchman nowadays is impatient and touchy. The color of political correctness has also changed. People do not want to make allowances or compromise but expect the other to back down. In the social sphere, there is also talk of a change of climate–an inconvenient truth.” Schnabel examines these shifts in the temperature of the country and critically discusses how the more worrying developments may be counteracted.

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