While a polarizing ‘war of ideas’ accompanied the shift from the Keynesian welfare state to the neoliberal market society in most Western European countries, the impression in the Netherlands is that neoliberalism is an Anglo-American project, alien to the consensual, moderate and pragmatic political tradition of the Netherlands.
The research project ‘Market Makers’ aims to contradict the conventional image of an Anglo-American neoliberalism with only late and limited impact in the Netherlands. It follows the lead of international historiography, which has traced a multifaceted range of national trajectories of neoliberalism in Western Europe, originating in the late 1940s. The project examines the specific character of the Dutch neoliberal movement from 1945 to 2002 as a ‘discourse coalition’, analytically subdivided in discourses, networks and policies. In doing so, it demonstrates how a neoliberal undercurrent in postwar Dutch society gradually mutated into a key influence on the policy paradigms of the 1980s and 1990s. This will enable us to explain the continuous postwar resistance against the welfare state, the remarkably radical transformation in the 1980s and 1990s of the Netherlands into one of the most liberalized European economies, and the paradoxical manifestation of Dutch neoliberalism in a depoliticized, consensual guise.
Internationally, the Dutch case provides a stepping stone towards a more systematic comparative conceptualization of different national trajectories of neoliberalism and accompanying pathways of institutional change. On a national level, the research provides depth to ongoing Dutch public debates on neoliberalism by demonstrating its long historical lineage, its nuanced complexity as well as its unexpectedly deep impact.