The Politics of Belgium. Institutions and Policy under Bipolar and Centrifugal Federalism

Author (Person)
Publication Date 2009
ISBN 978-0-415-48453-4
Content Type

For too long Belgium remained an unexplored terrain by comparative political scientists. Belgium's politics were best known through the writings of Arend Lijphart, who considered it a model case of consociationalism. Over the past ten to fifteen years, the analysis of consociationalism has been complemented by a more detailed coverage of Belgium's spectacular transformation process from a unitary into a federal state, moving rapidly now to disintegration. Likewise, several peculiar aspects of Belgian politics, such as the record fragmentation of its party system, have been covered in edited volumes or international journals. However, given the complexity of the Belgian configuration of political institutions and actors, any inclusion of particular aspects of the Belgian case in comparative work calls for an in depth and integrated understanding of the broader political system.

This book tries to provide such an analysis. It brings together a team of 19 political scientists and sociologists who aim to explain the dynamics and incentives of institutional change and seek to analyze the intricate interplay between the main institutional components of the Belgian body politic. The sociological, political and institutional determinants and the consequences of the 'federalisation' process of Belgium is the central theme that links each of the individual chapters. This book will be essential reading for students who want to understand the politics of Belgium and for anyone with a strong interest in West European Politics, comparative politics and comparative federalism.

Table of contents:

1. Introduction - The Politics of Belgium: Institutions and Policy under Bipolar and Centrifugal Federalism
Wilfried Swenden, Marleen Brans and Lieven De Winter

Part 1: Sociological and Institutional Determinants of Policy-Making

2. ‘Will It Stay or Will It Go?’ Federalism and the Sustainability of Belgium
Wilfried Swenden and Maarten Theo Jans

3. And the Peace Goes On? Consociational Democracy and Belgian Politics in the Twenty-First Century
Kris Deschouwer

4. Does Belgium (Still) Exist? Differences in Political Culture between Flemings and Walloons
Jaak Billiet, Bart Maddens and Andre-Paul Frognier

5. Party System(s) and Electoral Behaviour in Belgium: From Stability to Balkanisation
Lieven De Winter, Marc Swyngedouw and Patrick Dumont

6. Do Belgian Parties Undermine the Democratic Chain of Delegation?
Lieven De Winter and Patrick Dumont

Part 2: Policy Performance and Policy Reform

7. Administrative Reform in Belgium: Maintenance or Modernisation?
Marleen Brans, Christian de Visscher and Diederik Vancoppenolle

8. Policy Failure and Corruption in Belgium: Is Federalism to Blame?
Jeroen Maesschalck and Steven Van de Walle

9. Policy Convergence and Divergence in Belgium: Education and Health Care
Stefaan De Rynck and Karolien Dezeure

10. Social Redistribution in Federalised Belgium
Bea Cantillon, Veerle De Maesschalck, Stijn Rottiers and Gerlinde Verbist

11. The European Rescue of the Federal State: How Europeanisation Shapes the Belgian State
Jan Beyers and Peter Bursens

12. Conclusion - Consociationalism, Corruption and Chocolate: Belgian Exceptionalism
B. Guy Peters

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