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 is the first book which provides 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.
This book was published as a special issue of West European Politics.
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