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Welcome to the website of the Dutch Political Science Association (NKWP), the main platform for Political Scientists who are Dutch or reside in the Netherlands. The association organises a variety of events for political scientists, such as the annual Politicologenetmaal. In addition, it is responsible for publishing Acta Politica, in cooperation with Palgrave.

The NKWP has different types of membership:

  • Full membership. You will receive Acta Politica and Res Publica: € 99 annually
  • Membership with Acta Politica: € 75 annually
  • Membership with Res Publica: € 65 annually
  • Membership without journals: € 29 annually

(PhD) Students receive a € 29 euro discount on the memberships with journals. The membership also entitles you to a discount on the fee for the annual Politicologenetmaal. To become a member of the Dutch Political Science Association, send an email to secretaris@politicologie.nl with your name, contact details, and the type of membership you want.

 

The Dutch Political Science Association 1950-2000

By Robert H. Lieshout and Bob Reinalda

 

Founding Years of Discipline and Association

Dutch political science claims early roots. In 1613 Daniel Heinsius became Professor of Politices at Leiden University. The various sciences bearing a relation to the state were then regarded as one body of ‘scientia politica’. During the 19th century, however, the juridical-legalistic point of view began to predominate in the theory of the state, and between roughly 1840 and the end of World War II Dutch universities practically neglected the existence of political science proper.

 

Immediately after the war, the University of Amsterdam established a new Faculty of Political and Social Sciences. Its two founding fathers were both historians but as early as the 1930s one of them, Jan Romein, had become well acquainted with American political science. The holders of the first three chairs in political science in the Netherlands, established between 1948 and 1953, had themselves studied law. It was only in 1963, with the appointment of Hans Daudt in Amsterdam, that the first professor of political science was appointed who had himself studied political science. The appointment of other political scientists, Hans Daalder in Leiden and Andries Hoogerwerf in Nijmegen, soon followed. This new generation of professors signalled the beginning of the development of political science as a separate discipline, with its own subject matter and research methods. At that time, most Dutch political scientists followed the example of their American and English colleagues by embracing behaviouralism and focusing on electoral studies.

 

The Dutch Political Science Association itself was founded in 1950 as the ‘Nederlandse Kring voor Wetenschap der Politiek’ (literally the ‘Dutch Circle for the Science of Politics’). Only a part of its members was made up of political science teachers. Others were constitutional lawyers, economists, historians and sociologists, as well as journalists and politicians. The members met a few times a year to read and discuss papers on subjects related to political science. Papers on public administration and international relations were discussed in two other bodies, the ‘Instituut voor Bestuurswetenschappen’ (‘Institute for Administrative Sciences’), established in 1939, and the ‘Genootschap voor Internationale Zaken’ (‘Society for International Affairs’), which had begun in 1947 to publish the monthly journal Internationale Spectator.

 

This situation was and is rather typical for Dutch political science. Where in many other countries international relations and public administration are part of political science, in the same way that comparative politics and electoral studies are, in the Netherlands they stand more or less apart. In the founding years of the discipline, this had much to do on the one hand with the left-wing origins of the Amsterdam Faculty of Political and Social Sciences (which was called the ‘red Faculty’), and on the other hand with the fact that at that time the great majority of diplomats and public administrators (who had often worked in the Dutch East Indies) had studied law in Leiden. The latter could not easily identify with the new discipline and its ambitions and kept aloof.

 

International support and encouragement

The foundation of the Dutch Association had been stimulated by UNESCO and the International Political Science Association (IPSA). The latter had been set up in 1949 both to bring together political scientists from various countries and to sharpen the outlines of political science as a science distinct from other disciplines such as law, history and sociology. Jan Barents, since 1948 the holder of the chair of political science at the University of Amsterdam, was a member of the IPSA Executive Committee between 1949 and 1955. In line with the UNESCO and IPSA programmes, Barents together with his colleagues De Jong and Schlichting, from the Free University in Amsterdam and the University of Nijmegen respectively, acted as co-founders of the ‘Dutch Circle for the Science of Politics’. With the aid of the Dutch government, and subsidies from the Rockefeller Foundation and UNESCO, the second IPSA congress took place at the Institute of Social Studies in The Hague in September 1952, bringing together 220 participants from 31 countries. In 1954 the Dutch Association joined the IPSA.

 

Electoral Studies

The Dutch Association also tried to stimulate political science research. In 1955, Barents and his two colleagues initiated the first electoral studies in the Netherlands. Under the auspices of the Association and sponsored by the Netherlands Organization for the Advancement of Pure Research, the collection of data began on the results of parliamentary elections in the town of Nieuwer-Amstel. The study, published in 1963, was intended to contribute to a better understanding of Dutch political life and to enable comparisons with the results of American and British electoral studies. In 1967, the Free University organized the first national parliamentary election studies. From 1971 onwards, these studies have been a common project of various universities. The Dutch Electoral Research Foundation SKON (‘Stichting Kiezersonderzoek Nederland’) is the formal successor of the interuniversity working groups that were responsible for the parliamentary election studies between 1971 and 1989.

 

Professionalization of the Association

In 1965, the Dutch Association started the publication of a three-monthly journal for political science, named Acta Politica. The circumstance that, by then, some hundreds of students had graduated in the new science suggested the need for the community of Dutch political scientists to possess a scientific journal of its own, and the Association saw it as its responsibility to provide practical support for its publication. The first volume offered an overview of the various subfields of political science in the Netherlands. The Association subsequently formalized its existence by adopting articles of association (1966) and regulations (1967). It also became known for the organization of the annual ‘Politicologenetmaal’ in the spring. This is a scientific congress taking exactly 24 hours (‘etmaal’), from Thursday 14:00 p.m. to Friday 14:00 p.m., with workshops and plenary sessions. The Association also started organizing mini-conferences in the autumn, dedicated to topical issues in politics. In the course of the years, political scientists began more and more to dominate these congresses and mini-conferences.

 

In 1989, in view of the fact that political scientists working at universities or scientific institutions were becoming a minority of the total number of graduates, the Association decided to set up a special section for those working outside universities. This practice-oriented section (‘Sectie Praktijk Politicologen’) participates in the ‘Politicologenetmaal’, but also organizes its own discussions and field visits.

 

In order to further the advancement of the discipline, in 1985 the Dutch Association introduced an annual Political Science Award (‘Jaarprijs Politicologie’) for the best Ph.D. thesis in the field. In 1991, Acta Politica followed with the annual Daniel Heinsius Award for the best Master’s thesis. In 2001, given that Acta Politica had become an international journal, the Dutch Association adopted the Daniel Heinsius Award.

 

Conflicts and Cutbacks

As already noted, the 1960s may be regarded as the period of consolidation of the new discipline. This applies not only to the universities themselves but also to the Dutch educational system more generally. In 1960, the so-called Academic Council established an advisory Subcouncil for Sociology and Political Science, and in 1967 political science was recognized and incorporated into the Academic Statute, which regulated educational programmes at the Dutch universities.

 

The end of the 1960s and the 1970s, however, witnessed a period of fierce conflict. Dissatisfied with the results of behaviouralism in general and electoral studies (Abram de Swaan’s ‘little politics’) in particular, students launched a debate on the legitimacy of the established ways in which the discipline was practiced. This debate included such issues as the relationship between political science and politics, the contents of the political science curriculum and the scope of political science. Soon the discipline was in total disarray. It certainly did not help that many of the major protagonists were driven by strong personal animosities. These troubles, which lasted more than a decade, seriously affected both teaching in political science and the life of the Association. The single most important consequence was that political scientists specializing in public administration no longer felt at home in political science departments or in the Association. Thus in 1973 a separate professional association was established for public administration (the ‘Vereniging voor Bestuurskunde’; ‘Association for Public Administration’), and three years later, at the University of Twente, the first separate department of public administration and public policy was established. The universities of Leiden, Rotterdam, the Free University of Amsterdam and the University of Nijmegen soon followed.

 

When, at the beginning of the 1980s, the conflicts finally subsided, there existed 5 political science departments in the Netherlands: at the University of Amsterdam (by far the largest department), the University of Leiden, the University of Nijmegen, the Free University of Amsterdam and the Erasmus University of Rotterdam. The discipline was left not much time to recuperate from ‘the troubles’. From the middle of the 1980s onwards, Dutch universities, and their humanities and social science departments in particular, were year after year confronted with severe cutbacks as a function of the retrenchment policies of successive governments. As a matter of fact, these cutbacks have continued and are continuing to the present day. (Whatever the benefits of the Dutch ‘polder- model’, these are entirely absent as far as the universities are concerned, government spending on higher education having been drastically reduced.) As a result of the first wave of cutbacks, the Rotterdam University political science department was closed. An important by-product of these cutbacks was a reinforcement of the fragmentation of the discipline. Since political science was a comparatively small discipline, and seriously tainted with its rebellious past, it was not able to muster enough political clout at the national level in order to protect its position. The four remaining departments were left to their own devices to fight for survival in their respective universities.

Some fifteen years later, we may conclude that Dutch political science has more or less survived the twin onslaughts of radicalism and retrenchment. The four departments are, it is true, considerably smaller than in the early 1980s, and in some cases their position is still precarious, but political science has clearly found its own academic ‘niche’. It has evolved into a mature discipline. Relations between the departments are still rather fragile, however, and it is significant that the attempts in the 1990s to establish a single national research school for political science have failed. After this debacle most political science research groups joined the Netherlands Institute for Government (NIG), the national research school for public administration.

 

International Orientation

Dutch political scientists clearly have a strong international orientation. Hans Daalder, professor of political science at Leiden University, was among the founding fathers of the ECPR, while his colleague Arend Lijphart, between 1968 and 1978 professor of international relations at Leiden, was the first editor of the European Journal of Political Research. Since 1970 Dutch political scientists have regularly participated in the Joint Sessions of Workshops of the European Consortium for Political Research, thus enhancing the further professionalization and internationalization of Dutch political science. According to Daalder, who produced a survey of Dutch political science for the EJPR in 1991, the discipline is characterized by its ‘modest size, research concentration on the Netherlands, substantial specialization, and a generally strong awareness of international trends in the discipline’ (EJPR, 1991, 298). To this we may add that the awareness in question is almost completely limited to trends in the Anglo-Saxon regions.

 

Acta Politica as an International Journal of Political Science

The Dutch Association’s journal Acta Politica gradually evolved from being a journal by and for Dutch political scientists to acquire the status of a fully refereed journal with a book review section, published (since 1997) wholly in English. Its main objective is to publish outstanding work reflecting research and developments of both a theoretical and empirical nature in all the sub-areas of the discipline, including Dutch and comparative politics, international relations, political theory, public administration and political communication. The journal also aims to maintain its position as the leading forum for publications pertaining to politics in the Netherlands. Dutch politics, considered either in its own right or in a comparative setting (in particular in comparsions with other small countries), remains an extremely interesting topic for study in its various aspects. The choice of a new editorial policy, most notably in the form of the internationalization of the journal, involved the recruitment of an international advisory board (25 members from various European and Northern American universities and from all the fields of political science).

The internationalization of Acta Politica means that the Dutch political science association no longer has a journal in the Dutch language. This is partly compensated for by its participation in Facta, a general social science journal containing information and reports. A recent strategy is to cooperate more closely with Dutch-speaking Belgian political scientists and to encourage Dutch political scientists to submit articles in Dutch to Res Publica, the Belgian journal of political science.

 

Dr. Robert H. Lieshout is Professor of International Relations at the University of Nijmegen and director of the Nijmegen Centre for German Studies. In 1999 he became President of the Dutch Political Science Association. Dr. Bob Reinalda is Senior Lecturer in International Relations at the University of Nijmegen. In 2000 he was elected Secretary and Treasurer of the Dutch Political Science Association.

Published in the journal European Political Science, 1/1, Autumn 2001, 60-65.

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