Acta Politica

, Volume 51, Issue 4, pp 451–471 | Cite as

The party politicization of administrative elites in the Netherlands

  • Laurenz Ennser-JedenastikEmail author
Original Article


This paper explores four potential motivations for the party politicization of the senior civil service: ideological agreement, coalition governance, party family issue priorities, and consociational representation. Using data on the party affiliation of 134 secretaries-general (SGs) serving in the Dutch ministerial bureaucracy between 1945 and 2013, it examines the partisan logic of appointment patterns among senior civil servants in the Netherlands. Overall levels of politicization are very high (almost 70 percent of all SGs have a discernible party affiliation), with a strong increase between 1970 and 1990 and a slight drop-off during the past decades. The appointment patterns suggest that the main drivers behind the party politicization of the Dutch elite bureaucracy are the demand for ideological agreement and a consociational quest for the representation of the ‘pillar parties’ in the senior civil service.


politicization civil service bureaucracy administrative elites Netherlands 



Research for this paper was conducted as part of the project ‘Party Government, Patronage, and the Regulatory State,’ funded by the Austrian Science Fund (Grant no. J 3409-G11).


  1. Bäck, H., Debus, M. and Dumont, P. (2011) Who gets what in coalition governments? Predictors of portfolio allocation in parliamentary democracies. European Journal of Political Research 50: 441–478.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bendor, J., Glazer, A. and Hammond, T. (2001) Theories of delegation. Annual Review of Political Science 4: 235–269.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Berglund, F., Holmberg, S., Schmitt, H. and Thomassen, J. (2005) Party identification and party choice. In: J. Thomassen (ed.) The European Voter: A Comparative Study of Modern Democracies. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 106–124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Blondel, J. (2002) Party government, patronage, and party decline in Western Europe. In Gunther R., Montero J.R. and Juan J.L. (eds.) Political Parties. Old Concepts and New Challenges. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 233–256.Google Scholar
  5. Browne, E. and Feste, K.A. (1975) Qualitative dimensions of coalition payoffs: Evidence from European party governments, 1945–1970. American Behavioral Scientist 18: 530–556.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Budge, I. and Keman, H. (1990) Parties and Democracy. Coalition Formation and Government Functioning in Twenty States. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Dahlström, C. and Niklasson, B. (2013) The politics of politicization in Sweden. Public Administration 91: 891–907.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Dalton, R.J. (2000) The decline of party identification. In: R.J. Dalton and M. Wattenberg (eds.) Parties without Partisans. Oxford: Political Change in Advanced Industrial Societies, pp. 19–36.Google Scholar
  9. Druckman, J.N. and Warwick, P.V. (2005) The missing piece: Measuring portfolio salience in Western European parliamentary democracies. European Journal of Political Research 44: 17–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Ennser-Jedenastik, L. (2014a) Party Politics and the Survival of Central Bank Governors. European Journal of Political Research 53: 500–519.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Ennser-Jedenastik, L. (2014b) Political control and managerial survival in state-owned enterprises. Governance 27: 135–161.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Ennser-Jedenastik, L. (2014c) The Politicization of Regulatory Agencies: Does Legal Independence Hurt or Help? Paper presented at the 4th Annual Conference of the European Political Science Association (EPSA)Google Scholar
  13. Ennser-Jedenastik, L. (2014d) The politics of patronage and coalition. How parties allocate managerial posts in state-owned enterprises. Political Studies 62: 398–417.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Flinders, M. and Matthews, F. (2010) Think again: Patronage, governance and the smarter state. Policy & Politics 38: 639–656.Google Scholar
  15. Huber, J.D. and Shipan, C.R. (2002) Deliberate Discretion. The Institutional Foundations of Bureaucratic Autonomy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Huber, J.D. and Shipan, C.R. (2006) Politics, delegation, and bureaucracy. In: B.R. Weingast and D.A. Witmann (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Political Economy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 256–272.Google Scholar
  17. Jansen, G., Graaf, D., Dirk, N. and Need, A. (2011) Class voting, social changes and political changes in the Netherlands 1971–2006. Electoral Studies 30: 510–524.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Jansen, G., Graaf, D., Dirk, N. and Need, A. (2012) Explaining the breakdown of the religion-vote relationship in the Netherlands, 1971–2006. West European Politics 35: 756–783.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Katz, R. S. and Mair, P. (1995) Changing models of party organization and party democracy. The emergence of the cartel party. Party Politics 1: 5–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Keiser, L. R., Wilkins, V. M., Meier, K. J. and Holland, C. A. (2002) Lipstick and logarithms: Gender, institutional context, and representative bureaucracy. American Political Science Review 96: 553–564.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kickert, W. J. M. (2010) Managing emergent and complex change: The case of Dutch agencification. International Review of Administrative Sciences 76: 489–515.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kopecký, P., Mair, P. and Spirova, M. (2012) Party Patronage and Party Government in European Democracies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Krislov, S. (1974) Representative Bureaucracy. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  24. Lewis, D.E. (2007) Testing Pendleton’s premise: Do political appointees make worse bureaucrats? Journal of Politics 69: 1073–1088.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lewis, D.E. (2008) The Politics of Presidential Appointments: Political Control and Bureaucratic Performance. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Lijphart, A. (1975) The Politics of Accommodation: Pluralism and Democracy in the Netherlands. Berkeley & Los Angeles: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  27. Lijphart, A. (1989) From the politics of accommodation to adversarial politics in the Netherlands: A reassessment. West European Politics 12: 139–153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Lipsmeyer, C.S. and Pierce, H.N. (2011) The eyes that bind: Junior ministers as oversight mechanisms in coalition governments. The Journal of Politics 73: 1152–1164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Mair, P. (2008) The challenge to party government. West European Politics 31: 211–234.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Mayntz, R. and Derlien, H.U. (1989) Party patronage and politicization of the West German administrative elite 1970–1987 - toward hybridization? Governance 2: 384–404.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Meier, K.J. and Nigro, L.G. (1976) Representative bureaucracy and policy preferences: A study in the attitudes of federal executives. Public Administration Review 36: 458–469.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Meyer-Sahling, J.H. (2008) The changing colours of the post-communist state: The politicisation of the senior civil service in Hungary. European Journal of Political Research 47: 1–33.Google Scholar
  33. Müller, W. C. (2000) Political parties in parliamentary democracies: Making delegation and accountability work. European Journal of Political Research 37: 309–333.Google Scholar
  34. Müller, W. C. (2006) Party patronage and party colonialization of the state. In: R.S. Katz and W. Crotty (eds.) Handbook of Party Politics. London: Sage Publications, pp. 189–195.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. O’Leary, R. (2013) The Ethics of Dissent: Managing Guerrilla Government. Thousand Oaks, CA: CQ Press.Google Scholar
  36. Peters, B.G. and Pierre, J. (2004) Politicization of the civil service: Concepts, causes, consequences. In: B.G. Peters and J. Pierre (eds.) Politicization of the Civil Service in Comparative Perspective. The Quest for Control. London & New York: Routledge, pp. 1–13.Google Scholar
  37. Rouban, L. (2003) Politicization of the civil service. In: B.G. Peters and J. Pierre (eds.) Handbook of Public Adminsitration. London: Sage Publications, pp. 310–20.Google Scholar
  38. Steen, T. and van der Meer, F. (2011) Public service bargains in Dutch top civil service. Public Policy and Administration 26: 209–232.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Strøm, K., Müller, W.C. and Smith, D.M. (2010) Parliamentary control of coalition governments. Annual Review of Political Science 13: 517–535.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Thies, M. F. (2001) Keeping tabs on partners: The logic of delegation in coalition governments. American Journal of Political Science 45: 580–598.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Van Biezen, I., Mair, P. and Poguntke, T. (2012) Going, going,… gone? The decline of party membership in contemporary Europe. European Journal of Political Research 51: 24–56Google Scholar
  42. van der Meer, F.M. (2004) Dutch government reform and the quest for political control. In: B.G. Peters and J. Pierre (eds.) The Politicization of the Civil Service in Comparative Perspective: A Quest for Control. London: Routledge, pp. 206–226.Google Scholar
  43. van der Meer, F.M. and Raadschelders, J.C.N. (1999) The senior civil service in the Netherlands: A quest for unity. In: Edward C.P. and V. Wright (eds.) Bureaucratic Elites in Western European States. A Comparative Analysis of Top Officials. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 205–228.Google Scholar
  44. van der Meer, F. and Raadschelders, J.C.N. (2014) Dutch central government elites from 1980 to 2012: Changing characteristics and interactions with political officeholders. Revue Française d’Administration Publique 151–152: 763–782.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. van Mierlo, H.J.G.A. (1986) Depillarisation and the decline of consociationalism in the Netherlands: 1970–1985. West European Politics 9: 97–119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. van Thiel, S. (2012) Party patronage in the Netherlands: Sharing appointments to maintain consensus. In P. Kopecký, P. Mair and M. Spirova (eds.) Party Patronage and Party Government in European Democracies. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 250–271.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Yesilkagit, K. and van Thiel, S. (2012) The Netherlands. In: Koen V., S. van Thiel, G. Bouckaert and P. Lægreid (eds.) Government Agencies. Practices and Lessons from 30 Countries. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 179–190.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GovernmentUniversity of ViennaViennaAustria

Personalised recommendations