Publications

society

Bas Bogaerts
society Hind Fraihi
11 min reading time

A Stranger on His Own Land

Right-wing extremism and Muslim extremism penetrate deeper into society, even into institutions. Meanwhile a much larger problem is overshadowed: inequality.

The L-Spot
Rescuehousevlieland
society Derek Blyth
2 min reading time

Not Drowning, but Waving

Derek Blyth takes you on micro adventures to L-Spots, hidden and exciting places in the Low Countries. This week he ends up in the Sahara of the North.

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society

Healing in Geel

In Geel, a town of about 35,000 souls in the south-east of Antwerp province, Sint-Dimpna reigns supreme. There is a Sint-Dimpna Hospital, a Sint-Dimpna College and a Sint-Dimpna Church, all located right next to Sint-Dimpnaplein. The local Gasthuis Museum has an entire room dedicated to this Saint. Known as Saint Dymphna in English, the patron saint of the mentally ill has so inspired the residents of Geel that they have built a tradition of caring for these vulnerable members of society on her story. Though many places in Europe can claim innovative facilities for the care and treatment of psychiatric patients, Geel is unique in the world – because it's been doing it since the Middle Ages.

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society

From Squalor to ‘Beauty'.' The Dutch Approach to Deprived Areas

When the new Dutch cabinet took office in 2006, tackling the problem of deprived areas was high on its agenda. This was in response to the electorate's evident demand for positive solutions to crime and the general sense of insecurity. During the hundred days that the government spent travelling around the country to take the pulse of the Dutch public, it was decided that forty districts would be eligible for a special offensive. The areas selected, which were chosen on the basis of figures relating to income, population transience and unemployment, were designated ‘krachtwijken' (places of power ) or ‘prachtwijken' (places of beauty). Ironically enough, the names do not refer to the actual situation in these areas but to the hoped-for future. At present these areas are burdened with socio-economic deprivation, with unemployment, low educational levels, school dropout rates, vandalism, a sense of insecurity and crime all rubbing shoulders.

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society

‘Pauper Paradise': the Dutch Re-education Laboratory

Journalist Suzanna Jansen's Pauper Paradise (Het pauperparadijs) is a clever and moving description of the attempts to re-educate and integrate ‘the dregs of humanity' in the Netherlands in the period from 1823 to 1973. Her family history leads us through the utopian projects that were intended to combat pauperism in the nineteenth century.

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society

Belgian Society and Politics

Review of the first two issues of the new annual review 'Belgian Society and Politics'

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society

The Fortis Saga

About the decline, fall and new lease of life of the Belgian-Dutch banking and insurance group Fortis.

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society

Herman Van Rompuy Succeeds Yves Leterme

Since the 30th December 2008 a new Prime Minister has been running Belgium: the Flemish Christian Democrat Herman Van Rompuy (1947-). The man has a long experience of the wheels of the State.

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society

The Idiosyncratic Philosophy of Herman De Dijn

Herman De Dijn's philosophy has never been a purely intellectual game. With him, as with every important philosopher, it has always been a matter of commitment, in the service of which philosophy was used. So for many people De Dijn has been a thorn in their flesh. But then, in philosophical circles that is actually the greatest compliment.

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society

Robbert Dijkgraaf: a Mathematical Physicist Throws the Windows Wide Open

Robbert Dijkgraaf, who took over as President of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie voor Wetenschap-pen, KNAW) on 19 May 2008, is a man of many talents. A brilliant mathematical physicist, he is a passionate champion of his own field of study and a talented populariser who has also made a name for himself as an artist. The youngest president in the history of the KNAW, Dijkgraaf is the ideal person to promote science in the Netherlands, with his great enthusiasm and strong sense of social responsibility.

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society

Learning to Live with Uncertainty. A Portrait of Abram de Swaan

Abram de Swaan, who in 2008 won the P.C. Hooft Prize, the highest literary award in the Netherlands, for his essays, has never allowed his curiosity to be shackled by any one doctrine, political tendency, research method, or even by a single academic discipline.

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society

A Calvinist Country?

For many people Calvinism is inextricably bound up with Dutch history and culture, and the commemoration of Calvin's five hundredth birthday in 2009 may well confirm that impression. Calvinism was an important feature in the Dutch landscape, but the same was true of other Christian persuasions. On a number of points, such as the tense relationship towards the government and an activist desire to improve the world, we may perhaps speak of a Calvinist influence. More important than Calvinism in the shaping of Dutch culture, however, was the country's religious diversity.

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society

Hasselt: The Taste of the City

In Hasselt there's no big square, no great art collection, none of the sense of ancient history you feel in nearby towns like Tongeren or Maastricht. Yet it's somehow quietly appealing. At the end of his day in Hasselt, Derek Blyth took a free bus back to the station and caught the train to Brussels, thinking over what he had experienced. He hadn't seen any famous paintings, or discovered any memorable cafe, but he had smelled coriander and tasted jenever and finally come to understand the stubborn local conviction that this is the best of all possible towns in the best of all possible provinces.

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society

Cultured Nature and Naturalised Culture. The Veluwe from 1908 to the Present Day

The Dutch Kröller-Müller is one of the few museums in Europe to be so deeply embedded in a nature park, and the park is the only nature reserve in Europe with a heavily visited museum at its heart. Yet park and museum are inextricably bound together. The two institutions themselves also think so, as is clear from their mission statements and strategies, which are dominated by precisely that combination of nature and culture. And their visitors evidently think the same: all surveys and studies show that they too greatly appreciate the combination of nature and culture. Which does not mean, of course, that this combination is still self-evident today, 100 years on. .

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The Trivial Pursuit of Happiness

A 'tour d'horizon' of well-being and happiness in the Low Countries. Welfare may be a subject of ongoing concern, happiness should not. Happiness exists precisely by grace of the imperfection of our existence, in which we are, at best, caught between uncomfortable contentment and more-or-less comfortable discontent. Or, as Maurice Maeterlinck, the only Belgian ever to be so fortunate as to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, put it: ‘Being happy means that you no longer worry about happiness.'

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society

Urban Health: A Tale of Two Cities. New York Became what Amsterdam once Was

In this article the authors compare urban mental health and substance abuse care in New York and in Amsterdam. In doing so, they recognise that globalisation and its effects on mental health are crucial. However, it is impossible to give a complete picture, because public mental health is a complicated combination of medical, scientific, social, and political factors. Nonetheless, this essay is a tentative sketch describing how to deal with these issues. In the year 2009, the Hudson celebration year, a conference will also be organised to celebrate both: the 400 year-old relationship between the two cities and the exchange concerning urban health issues. Experts from New York and Amsterdam will present the similarities and differences in the challenges this subject poses.

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society

A Question of Caring? Population Ageing in Flanders and the Netherlands

The issue of population ageing is receiving a great deal of attention internationally. In 2002 the United Nations produced an action plan with three key priorities: first, concern for the elderly and the development of this, embracing themes such as employment, urbanisation, solidarity between generations and combating poverty; second, the promotion of health and welfare in later life; third, guaranteeing a stimulating and supportive environment for older people in areas such as housing, education, volunteer services and mobility. In common with other countries, Flanders and the Netherlands have developed specific policies aimed at addressing the consequences of population ageing.

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society

Good Taste and Domestic Bliss. Art, Home and Well-Being around 1900

Long tailbacks on roads full of furniture shops, traffic at a standstill on motorway exits leading to furniture superstores, a wide range of interior design magazines and umpteen television programmes devoted to ‘home and garden': these are the visible proof that at the start of the twenty-first century a great many people are extremely interested in their home environment and want to feel truly ‘at home' there. Of course, the increased prosperity of the second half of last century has been an important factor in expanding this interest to its present scale. But something today's consumer will not be aware of is that the very first impulse towards concern among the general public for a good home environment actually dates from the nineteenth century. Developments that took place at that time in many fields radically changed the appearance of society. The rise of industrialisation in Europe played a very important part in this.

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society

Individual, but not Egoistical. Social Cohesion in the Netherlands

The Dutch fight against 'mindless violence': it's an echo of so many attempts to pinpoint a certain cultural uneasiness, the suspicion of social cooling, and to fight it. While mindless violence may be one of the most visible causes of a general social malaise, the solidarity hype is about more than that. Almost all social problems are attributed to a lack of human contact. Initiatives to promote cohesion are popping up like mushrooms in the Netherlands. And then there's the 'orange nationalism' and the big emotions.

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