chapter
12 Pages

Introduction

For too long Belgium remained an unexplored terrain by comparative political scientists. This lack of visibility was partly due to the community of Belgian political scientists itself. Frequently, they described the Belgian political system by using idiosyncratic concepts that were not readily translatable to Anglo-Saxon, academic and comparative discourse (De Winter et al. 2006). Neologisms that featured in the description of the sui generis character of the Belgian polity included verzuiling or pillarisation, whiplash parties, dissociative federalism, partitocracy or New Political Culture. Belgium’s politics were best known through the writings of Arend Lijphart, who considered it a model case of consociationalism. Over the past 10 –15 years, the analysis of consociationalism has been complemented by a more detailed coverage of Belgium’s spectacular transformation process from a unitary into a federal state. Likewise, several peculiar aspects of Belgian politics, such as the exceptional fragmentation of its party system, have been

increasingly covered in edited volumes or international journals. However, given the complexity of the Belgian configuration of political institutions and actors, any inclusion of particular aspects of the Belgian case in comparative work calls for an in-depth and integrated understanding of the broader political system. Therefore, this volume deals not only with the dynamics and incentives explaining institutional change, but also with the intricate interplay between the main institutional components of the Belgian political system.