Is the Polder Model Good for the Economy?
The book Nederland en het poldermodel [The Netherlands and the Polder Model] is a commendable effort to present a new, theory-informed interpretation of the economic and social history of the Netherlands of the last thousand years. However, this review questions the supposed causal relationship between civil society (‘polder model’) and economic growth. The authors assume that economic growth emanates from a vibrant civil society and that likewise economic decline coincides with a weakening of civil society. Upon closer inspection however, their concepts seem to be imperfectly related to the theories they claim to use as inspiration. The supposed waning of civil society after 1670 and after 1815 is not substantiated by historical facts either. Their thesis would have benefited greatly from a comparative analysis, both spatially and in time. The rather haphazard use of the term ‘civil society’ precludes convincing conclusions over time, while an international perspective is lacking altogether – a sadly missed opportunity.
Karel Davids, Marjolein ’t Hart
BMGN - Low Countries Historical Review 129 (1) 90-98

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