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Discovering the Dutch

Discovering the Dutch: On Culture and Society of the Netherlands

Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Discovering the Dutch
    Book Description:

    What are the salient facts about the Netherlands? This book tackles the question of Dutch identity through a number of essential themes in the culture, history and society. What is the place of the Queen a modern parliamentary democracy? How did the nation become a byword for welfare state and the "poldermodel"? What explains it success in trade and industry? What is the Randstad? What explains the fabulous political and cultural success of the Dutch Golden Age? Why did tolerance and accommodation turn into such powerful political traditions? What made the Netherlands one of the leading cultural nations in such fields as painting, literature, architecture and design? This book also addresses a number of contemporary issues that dominate the image of the Netherlands in foreign eyes, such as immigration, diversity, tolerance, ethical questions, and the struggle against water. This volume is especially valuable because all chapters are written by academic experts in their fields who have extensive experience in explaining the many features of "Dutchness" to a foreign audience. Each chapter comes to life in vignettes that illustrate characteristic historical figures or essential aspects in Dutch culture and society from William of Orange and Anne Frank to Dutch cheese and the inevitable coffeeshop.

    eISBN: 978-90-485-0827-3
    Subjects: History, Language & Literature, General Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-8)
  3. Map of The Netherlands
    (pp. 9-9)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 11-16)
    Emmeline Besamusca and Jaap Verheul

    This volume is intended as a helpful guide for anyone interested in exploring the culture and society of the Netherlands. Like any dedicated tour guide, it builds on inside knowledge and native familiarity. All chapters are written by experts in their field who bring their personal perspectives, enthusiasms and some local color to their topics. Rather than offering exhaustive, data-filled overviews, they engage in conversations with the reader about what they feel is essential to an understanding of the Netherlands. They may even politely try to persuade their readers of a few convictions and insights.

    While building on inside knowledge,...

  5. Society

    • Chapter 1 Citizens, Coalitions and the Crown
      (pp. 19-31)
      Emmeline Besamusca

      The Netherlands is often described as a country of paradox. Born in the sixteenth century as a republic within a world almost exclusively dominated by monarchies, it is now one of the few constitutional monarchies left in a world in which the republican form of government is the rule rather than the exception. In a nation that is thoroughly modern and democratic, the monarchy – which seems an embodiment of tradition and authority – enjoys surprisingly broad and stable public support. In fact, although the Dutch almost pride themselves on the absence of patriotism and flag-waving, it is only the...

    • Chapter 2 The Economy of the Polder
      (pp. 33-43)
      Jan Luiten van Zanden

      The Dutch sometimes think they are different. They like to talk about things being “typically Dutch.” Similarly, economic historians have suggested that the way in which the economy is managed is rooted in the particular past of the Netherlands – in its Golden Age, from which it inherited, for example, a strong focus on the outside world, or, as we will discuss, the “poldermodel.” In many ways, however, the Dutch are very similar to other Europeans – and should be placed between Germany and the United Kingdom, in more ways than mere terms of geography. Accordingly, the history of the...

    • Chapter 3 Dilemmas of the Welfare State
      (pp. 45-55)
      Lex Heerma van Voss

      In 200 7 American journalist and writer Russell Shorto settled in Amsterdam to become Director of the John Adams Institute. Over the following months and years, he submerged himself in Dutch society. Among his experiences were receiving unsolicited payments: some € 500 every quarter with the oneword explanationkinderbijslag(child benefit). Upon first receiving this money, Shorto looked up the website of the benefactor, theSociale Verzekeringsbank(Social Insurance Bank), where the reason for this financial transaction to every parent residing in the Netherlands was explained as follows: “Babies are expensive. Nappies, clothes, the pram … all these things cost...

    • Chapter 4 Randstad Holland
      (pp. 57-69)
      Ben de Pater and Rob van der Vaart

      Some forty percent of the Dutch population and almost fifty percent of the jobs are concentrated in an area that is about twenty percent of the national land surface: the urbanized ring connecting the four largest cities of Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam, and Utrecht, located in the three provinces North Holland, South Holland and Utrecht. Without any doubt “Randstad Holland” (literally: “Rim City” or “City on the Edge”), as this area is called, is the country’s core region.¹ The image of this area as the center is reinforced by the common international practice to use “Holland,” the name of the...

    • Chapter 5 Idealism and Self-Interest in World Politics
      (pp. 71-82)
      Duco Hellema

      Although the glorious days of the Republic of the United Seven Provinces and the Dutch colonial empire are long gone, the Netherlands is still a power of some significance. After a painful process of decolonization and adaptation to the post-war realities, the Netherlands has become a prosperous Northwest- European country that is an active member of the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). In the 1960s and 1970s, it even gained a reputation as a liberal, progressive, and tolerant society, an idealist supporter of the United Nations and a generous donor of development aid. In recent years,...

  6. History

    • Chapter 6 From the Periphery to the Center
      (pp. 85-95)
      Marco Mostert

      The story of the delta before the Dutch nation is somewhat different from the later history of the Netherlands. That later history, however, cannot be understood without knowledge of what went before. The Dutch Republic did not emerge in a single instant; it was made possible by earlier developments, and the culture and society of early modern times was heavily indebted to those of the Middle Ages. We have to start our story even further back, with the advent of the Romans. They came to the region where the rivers Rhine, Maas and Scheldt reached the sea during the first...

    • Chapter 7 The Golden Age
      (pp. 97-107)
      Maarten Prak

      During much of the seventeenth century the Dutch dominated European and indeed world trade. The Dutch guilder was the dollar of the seventeenth century, a currency accepted around the globe. During that same period, the Dutch army and navy were much-feared combatants. Scientists working in the Dutch Republic were prominent participants in the Scientific Revolution. Dutch artists from this period, like Rembrandt and Vermeer, are household names even today. The history of the Dutch Golden Age is therefore of much more than local importance.

      That history is often told in terms of exceptionalism; the Dutch were the odd man out...

    • Chapter 8 A Tradition of Tolerance
      (pp. 109-119)
      Wijnand Mijnhardt

      Today the Netherlands is known as one of the most permissive societies in the Western world. Yet the Dutch brand of permissiveness, which is readily associated with the acceptance of homosexuality, women’s rights, abortion, same-sex marriage and the liberalization of soft drugs and euthanasia, originated from the cultural protests of the 1960s and 1970s that would dramatically transform the Dutch landscape.¹ As a result of that social revolution, many Dutch citizens consider permissiveness and tolerance as essential parts of their self-image and identity, even to the extent of creating a historical lineage that goes back to the early days of...

    • Chapter 9 Politics between Accommodation and Commotion
      (pp. 121-133)
      Ido de Haan

      On May 6, 2002, Pim Fortuyn was killed. He was the leader of a new populist party, simply called List Pim Fortuyn (LPF), which was leading the polls for the national elections that were to take place nine days later. Dutch prime minister Wim Kok told theNew York Timesthat day: “I feel devastated by this. … What went through my head was, ‘This is the Netherlands, the Netherlands, a nation of tolerance.’” While his reaction testified of the inclination towards – or at least the self-image of – a politics of peaceful accommodation, the murder of Fortuyn was...

    • Chapter 10 The Second World War: Dilemmas of Occupation
      (pp. 135-146)
      Christ Klep

      On May 4, National Memorial Day, the Dutch commemorate all civilians and members of the armed forces who died in wars and peacekeeping operations since the outbreak of the Second World War. The Dutch flag is flown at halfmast and two minutes of silence are observed at eight o’clock in the evening, during which time public transportation comes to a stand-still. In most cities and villages people gather around monuments, listen to speeches and lay down flowers to remember the dead. The official commemoration, which is attended by the Royal Family, members of the government, military authorities and representatives of...

  7. Art & Culture

    • Chapter 11 The Making of Rembrandt and Van Gogh
      (pp. 149-161)
      Ghislain Kieft and Quirine van der Steen

      Rembrandt and Van Gogh are names every reader and every visitor of museums knows – their names are so familiar that even the illiterate and the blind will recognize them. In every history of Dutch art substantial and deserved attention is given to their paintings; sometimes even beyond the point of being reasonable. By far the most expensive study in art history was the “Rembrandt Research Project,” which tried to establish once and for all the exact size and boundaries of Rembrandt’s oeuvre. The project was so big, that it was said it could be seen from the moon. However,...

    • Chapter 12 Style and Lifestyle in Architecture
      (pp. 163-177)
      Rob Dettingmeijer

      Architecture today offers a paradox: on the one hand it is more popular than ever, on the other hand it is losing all the aspects that once defined this art and craft. More full-color magazines, websites, books and tourist destinations with a great emphasis on, or totally devoted to, architecture are published than ever. But this architecture is more about images than about objects. In contemporary architecture, tastes are changing even faster than fashion. Ben van Berkel of architect’s firm UN-studio proudly claimed that “the architect is the fashion designer of the future.” ¹ Is this the result of the...

    • Chapter 13 Literature, Authors and Public Debate
      (pp. 179-189)
      Frans Ruiter and Wilbert Smulders

      Dutch is spoken by some twenty-five million people living in the Netherlands and Flanders (the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium). Before decolonization it was also spoken in the East Indies (now Indonesia). South African, with its rich literary tradition, directly developed from Dutch. The famous Dutch historian Johan Huizinga once described the Netherlands as a transit port, both in a literal as well as in an intellectual sense. Neighboring cultures from England, France and Germany met and were connected in the Netherlands. This has led to a cosmopolitan and outward looking literary tradition, which produced great writers such as the romantic...

    • Chapter 14 Three Feminist Waves
      (pp. 191-201)
      Rosemarie Buikema and Iris van der Tuin

      During the past century, Dutch culture and society were shaped in important ways by the three feminist waves which thoroughly transformed the position of women in the West. This chapter cannot offer a comprehensive overview of these changes nor does it address the sheer facts and figures. Discussions about the effects of the feminist waves invariably involve key indicators and focus on questions such as: what is the proportion of women in full-time employment by now; what are their career opportunities for leading positions; what is the glass ceiling in Dutch society; what childcare facilities are available; what is the...

    • Chapter 15 Excellence and Egalitarianism in Higher Education
      (pp. 203-214)
      Jeroen Torenbeek and Jan Veldhuis

      As a relatively wealthy nation with intensive international trade connections and an enthusiasm for innovation and exploration, the Netherlands has developed into a gateway of ideas and an ambitious hub of education and research. The nation’s international reputation is reflected by such indicators as the number of Nobel Prize winners, the proportionally very high research output in academic journals and the global rankings of its institutions of higher education. With nearly all of its rated universities belonging to the world top two hundred according to the Chinese Shanghai, the German CHE and the Dutch CWTS (Leiden) rankings,¹ the Netherlands, as...

  8. Contemporary Issues

    • Chapter 16 Religious Diversification or Secularization?
      (pp. 217-229)
      David Bos

      Amsterdam’s Nieuwe Kerk is probably the country’s most frequently visited church. Each year it welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors. They do not come to this fifteenth-century “new church” for worship, however. Neither do they come to admire the building, which oddly lacks a tower. Since the 1980s, it mainly serves for exhibitions, mostly of treasures from far away and long ago.

      Christianity in the Netherlands seems doomed to share the lot of past civilizations. Since the 1960s, a thousand church buildings have been closed down, and demolished or converted into museums, concert halls, apartments, restaurants, clubs, shops, or mosques....

    • Chapter 17 Immigration and Multiculturalism
      (pp. 231-241)
      Han Entzinger

      The prevailing self-image of the Dutch has always been one of a strong international orientation and an open mind towards influences from abroad: an open society with open borders. The Dutch prided themselves on their tolerance for other cultures and religions, and they were believed to welcome immigrants and refugees from all over the world. In the late twentieth century the Netherlands had become one of the countries in Europe with the largest share of foreign-born residents. Its generous and respectful policies of multiculturalism served as a shining example for other immigration societies. Since the turn of the millennium, however,...

    • Chapter 18 Law in Action
      (pp. 243-253)
      Freek Bruinsma

      The postal code of the Red Light District in Amsterdam is 1012 . Coalition Project 1012 is a joint effort of public authorities, private citizens and local businesses to counter the degradation of the district. It assumed its full-fledged form with a budget of forty-five million euros at the end of 2007. The Project aims to abolish the criminal infrastructure of women trafficking, drug dealing and money laundering. Repression of prostitution is not its goal. Prostitution was allowed in Amsterdam as far back as 1413 when the city decreed: “Because whores are necessary in big cities and especially in cities...

    • Chapter 19 Living with Water
      (pp. 255-265)
      Rob van der Vaart

      “How do we manage to do this? Such a small country. So much water and a climate that is changing. And yet remaining in balance. Quite difficult! But together with you we provide dry feet and clean water. Dive into that!” This is the voice-over of the television ad of the government campaign “The Netherlands Lives with Water” that was launched in spring 2008. The ad shows a green raft in the shape of the Netherlands that floats in the sea. On the raft groups that represent the Dutch population keep their balance, such as an ice skater, a young...

    • Chapter 20 In Foreign Eyes
      (pp. 267-278)
      Jaap Verheul

      The Netherlands has evoked divergent images in the eyes of foreigners. Although one of the most densely populated countries in the world, it is cheerfully associated with windmills, tulips, wooden shoes, and green polders where black-and-white cows peacefully graze. In its picturesque inner cities people joyfully ride their bicycles along the canals. People speak their minds freely, are averse to authority and dogma, and tolerate different opinions and religions. This image of free expression, independence and open-mindedness, however, is easily turned into the dystopian picture of permissiveness and moral bankruptcy. In recent years foreign media have routinely associated the Netherlands...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 279-289)
  10. About the Authors
    (pp. 290-294)
  11. Illustrations
    (pp. 295-296)
  12. Index
    (pp. 297-304)