Weldenkend Nederland sinds de jaren zestig
A study of the legacy of a cultural revolution that stranded on the totem of consensus
Throughout the world, Holland has an almost mythic reputation for freedom and tolerance. In addition, the Dutch ‘polder model’ attracts international attention for its economic achievement. In Correct, sociologist Herman Vuijsje investigates the political and social reality behind this striking success story.
Until the mid-sixties the Dutch were perfectly docile; disobedience was taboo. But with the cultural revolution of ’68, the roles were reversed: the state had to turn cartwheels in order to find favour with the public. Nothing now was to block the freedom and autonomy of the individual, and new taboos, such as governmental pressure, infringement of privacy and criticism of ethnic minorities determined public debate. Vuijsje shows how pressure groups and well-organized minorities gained great influence on public policy in the seventies. The plan for a census encountered so much opposition that the whole idea was scrapped. Dutch permissiveness, tolerating in practice what is formally forbidden – like fare-dodging in public transport, social security fraud, and ‘coffeeshops’ (where drugs are sold) – , reigned supreme. Consensus was the catchword in the cooperative economy of the polder model. But in practice this consensus led to conformity, and the protection of privacy led to detachment whereby the right of the strongest triumphed.
The result is that at the end of this century the Dutch authorities find it necessary to take firmer measures against excesses. Vuijsje makes a serious and honest effort to explain these paradoxes of administrative culture. According to him, the taboos of violation of privacy, racial discrimination, and governmental pressure result primarily from the memory of the Second World War and the fact that the persecution of the Jews (which claimed an excessive amount of victims in Holland) has not been dealt with. Other factors are the extent of the baby boom, the conformity of the intelligentsia and the prosperity of the seventies.
In his eyes this permissiveness was not a well-reasoned policy but rather an attempt to keep up appearances: the government had lost control but acted as if that were intentional. The assault on taboos in the sixties created new taboos which victimized the weaker members of society. In his clear and sharp analysis, Vuijsje argues for the return of a strong central authority.