Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE ( © Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 07 March 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Under the surface of great unity, Belgium suffered from three cleavages that have divided the small nation. This article discusses the three cleavages that have influenced and affected the political make-up of Belgian. The first two have an indirect effect on subnational democracy as they are an expression of the structural relationship between the state, civil society, and the market. The third cleavage has a more direct bearing on democracy beyond the nation-state. The first cleavage is the rise of liberals opposing rural Catholic domination of society. A logic of subsidiarity was formed which developed a system of pillarization (verzuiling) which segmented society. The second cleavage is economic, as the mass labour force stood against a capitalist regime. With the development of the labour movement and the spread of voting rights, capitalism became more state-regulated. This led to corporatism where private organizations were given privileged status and often monopolized substantial aspects of public goods and service delivery. The last cleavage is the conflicts between two linguistic communities. This conflict affected the nature of the subnational democracy of Belgium. The combined effects of the three cleavages: pillarization, corporatism, and regionalization, made Belgium local governments and local leaders amongst the weakest in Europe. While tendencies of divergence are prevalent in the Belgian context, convergence is still a possibility: the regions integrated Belgian heritage into their political systems. The most crucial is the strong political localism which led to a complex intergovernmental and party-political lobbying and to blurred responsibilities which hollow out local democracy. In general, local democracy has been the victim of such systematic features.

Keywords: Belgium, subnational democracy, democracy, subsidiarity, pillarization, corporatism, regionalization, Belgium local governments, political systems

Access to the complete content on Oxford Handbooks Online requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription.

Please subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.

For questions on access or troubleshooting, please check our FAQs, and if you can''t find the answer there, please contact us.