E.g., 09/17/2019
E.g., 09/17/2019

The Netherlands: From National Identity to Plural Identifications

March 2013

The Netherlands: From National Identity to Plural Identifications

This report discusses the political debate surrounding national identity in the Netherlands against the backdrop of growing public anxiety about immigrants and their effect on local communities. While policies designed to mitigate these fears largely stress national identity and demand cultural assimilation, the report provides an alternative set of recommendations based on the notion of plural identification.

The report finds that new integration strategies advanced by the Dutch government since the official rejection of multiculturalism in 2004 pushes the notion of “culturalized citizenship” — the idea that being Dutch means adhering to a certain set of cultural and social norms — and places the onus on the minority to fit into the existing majority. The turn away from multiculturalism is reflected in policies that deny admission to prospective immigrants who fail a compulsory civic integration exam and limit social assistance to non-Dutch speakers, as well as in proposals seeking to prohibit dual citizenship and restrict attire associated with Islamic traditions.

Despite the prevalence of anti-immigrant political rhetoric, findings suggest that Dutch society is deeply polarized with respect to views toward immigrants. Public opinion surveys indicate that many citizens agree that the presence of different cultures represents a gain for society, while anti-immigrant views are seemingly concentrated among the less-educated with less cultural capital. Arguing that national governments ultimately cannot alleviate feelings of cultural insecurity nor govern globalization processes by defining identity in rigid, exclusionary terms, the author proposes a more fluid and open notion of national identity based on shared interests and experiences, norms and morals, and feelings of national pride. The report concludes that such means of plural identification with the Netherlands offer the most promising route to social cohesion.

Table of Contents 

I. Introduction

II. Polarization in the Netherlands

No Consensus on Views toward Immigrants

III. The Link between Cultural Insecurity and Politics


IV. Policy Response: National Identity and Cultural Assimilation

V. From National Identity to Plural Identities

A. Emotional Identification

B. Normative Identification

C. Functional Identification

VI. Conclusions