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Guest of the Rector (Spring 2000)
During my three-month stay at NIAS my work focused on the examination of the changes that have occurred in Dutch politics in terms of the contrast between consensus democracy and majoritarian democracy from 1945 to 2000. I disaggregated this contrast into its five constituent elements (type of cabinet, executive-legislative relations, and the party, electoral, and interest group systems), in order to test the hypothesis of a curvilinear trend from consensus in the period until 1967 to a more majoritarian system from 1967 to 1982, followed by a return to consensus after 1982. My main conclusion, also based on numerous conversations with knowledgeable political and social scientists in the Netherlands (greatly facilitated by my stay at NIAS), is that the critical 1867-82 period of political polarization was not a period of majoritarianism, or even a trend toward majoritarianism, but an attempt to bring about a majoritarian system that proved to be largely unsuccessful with the exception that it ushered in the change from oversized to minimal winning cabinets.
I also devoted a considerable portion of my time to the preparation of my Uhlenbeck Lecture on Democracy in the Twenty-First Century: Can We Be Optimistic?. This entailed the integration of two separate strands of theory and empirical evidence concerning, respectively, the viability of democracy in newly democratic states and the quality of democracy and of democratic participation in the well-established older democracies. With regard to the question of optimal constitutional design, I found that these two strands converged to a remarkable degree: the institutions that can promote and strengthen both democratic viability and vitality are a parliamentary form of government, proportional representation, and strong and cohesive political parties.
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