The cases of Austria, Belgium and the Netherlands (1945-96) 1
The purpose of this chapter is to explore both the theoretical propositions concerning the role and activities of parties and pillarization, and their effects on electoral stability in Austria, Belgium and the Netherlands. The second section of this chapter will be devoted to examining the propositions concerning pillarization that are contained in or can be deduced from consociational theory. In the third section, the electoral consequences of pillarization and of the process of de-pillarization will be spelled out in the form of hypotheses that will be tested in the final part of the chapter. The latter will be divided into two sections. The first will look at the question of electoral stability from a systemic perspective, focusing on the evolution of certain features such as the share of the vote of pillar parties and the fractionalisation of the party systems. The second will analyse the electoral evolution of Austria, Belgium and the Netherlands since the Second World War, adapting the measures of total volatility and block volatility designed by Pedersen (1979) and Bartolini and Mair (1990).
The theory of consociational democracy (esp. Lijphart 1968a, 1969, 1975) seeks to explain the apparent paradox of the existence of political stability in certain countries that have a very fragmented political culture. According to this theory, this is possible thanks to the combination of two factors. The first is the willingness and ability of the political elite to engage in accommodative decision-making, whilst the second relates to a distinct form of sociopolitical organisation known as pillarization, which comprises a particular type of linkage between the citizens and the elites who channel the potential conflict.
Kriesi (1990:437) has characterised pillarization as a particularly pervasive strategy of vertical penetration, which entails the construction of parallel organisational structures performing similar social, cultural and political tasks. The network of organisations of each pillar include schools, communications