The Dutch disease

Attempts to argue that this election shows how the Netherlands has “changed” and lost its tolerance/liberalism/decency are problematic and plainly incorrect precisely because building the nation was a racialized project from the very start. Islamophobia is only the most recent expression of this project, but it is not new, nor a departure. The emergence of the Dutch welfare state is key to contextualizing this project. In an excellent post, the cultural critic Egbert Alejandro Martina shows how the emergence of the Dutch welfare state represented an attempt to make the white working class “fit for (bourgeois) society” which was seen as preferable to improving conditions of the working class by raising the standard of living. The welfare state was envisioned as a disciplinary force that would deflect attention away from structural inequalities and instead discipline the working class through biopolitics, absorbing and neutralizing any threat it posed. This later transformed as a means of disciplining bodies seen as racially and/or culturally different. What is new, however, is today’s material context: the crisis of neoliberal capitalism and the dismantling of the welfare state. It is not a failure of integration that forces politicians to discuss Muslims; rather it has been an extremely successful tactic that has deflected attention away from the state’s role in dismantling the social services Dutch citizens have had since the 1950s. These cuts to the welfare state have led to economic inequalities that have resulted in antagonism towards anyone seen as a “foreigner”. This is not, however, a natural response to economic crisis. It is a concrete result of historical processes of class and race intersecting to produce the Dutch state and Dutch nationalism.

Sara Salem in The Dutch disease (Africasacountry)