The Info List - Pillarisation

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(Dutch: verzuiling) is the politico-denominational segregation of a society. These societies were (and in some areas, still are) "vertically" divided into several segments or "pillars" (zuilen, singular zuil) according to different religions or ideologies. The best-known examples of this have historically occurred in the Netherlands
and Belgium. These pillars all have their own social institutions: their own newspapers, broadcasting organisations, political parties, trade unions and farmers' associations, banks, schools, hospitals, universities, Scouting
organisations and sports clubs. Some companies even hire only personnel of a specific religion or ideology.[1] This leads to a situation where many people have no personal contact with people from another pillar. Austrian, Iraqi Arab, Israeli, Lebanese, Maltese, Nigerian, Northern Irish,[2] and Scottish[3] societies may also be considered to have displayed aspects of pillarisation, historically or in the present time.


1 Netherlands

1.1 Institutions
by pillar 1.2 Depillarisation

2 Belgium

2.1 Institutions
by pillar with their ethnic divisions

3 Proporz in Austria 4 See also 5 References 6 Further reading


Life in the Netherlands


Architecture Cuisine Culture Customs Holidays Music Religion Sport


Economy Recycling Taxation Transport


Demographics Education Customs Languages Media Health care


Foreign Policy Human Rights Law Law enforcement Military Politics


Gedogen Abortion Drug policy Euthanasia Pillarisation Prostitution Same-sex marriage

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The Netherlands
had (at least) three pillars: Protestant, Catholic
and Social-democratic. Pillarisation
was originally initiated by Abraham Kuyper and his Christian Democratic and neo-Calvinist (gereformeerd) Anti-Revolutionary Party
Anti-Revolutionary Party
(ARP) in the late 1800s; it was part of their philosophy of sphere sovereignty.[4][not in citation given] The Catholic
pillar had the highest degree of organisation, because Catholic
clergy promoted the organization of almost the whole life of Catholics in confessional institutions. Yet, the conservative Protestant
pillar and the Socialist pillar, which mainly consisted of industrial workers, were nearly as tightly knit.[5] The Protestant (hervormd) Christian Historical Union
Christian Historical Union
(CHU) (formed in 1908) did not organise a pillar of its own but linked itself to the Protestant pillar shaped by the ARP. People who were not associated with one of these pillars, mainly middle- and upper-class latitudinarian Protestants and atheists, arguably set up their own pillar: the liberal or "general" pillar. Ties between general organisations were much weaker than within the other three pillars. Liberals actually rejected the voluntary segregation of the society, and denied the existence of a "liberal pillar".[5] The political parties usually associated with this group were the Free-minded Democratic League
Free-minded Democratic League
(VDB) and Liberal State Party (LSP). Communists, Humanists and ultra-orthodox Protestants also set up similar organisations; however, such groups were much smaller. The development of pillarisation in the Netherlands
was favoured by the emancipation of working and lower-middle classes on the one hand, and the execution of elite control on the other hand. The emancipation of the working class led to the establishment of socialist parties, trade unions, media, cooperative shops and collectively organised leisure activities. This "full care" of the socialist movement for its members existed similarly in other European countries. The emancipation of the conservative and often strongly religious lower-middle class fostered the emergence of the Protestant
pillar. While the Dutch bourgeoisie was rather liberal and adhered to "enlightened" Protestantism, a large part of the lower-middle class embraced a more orthodox Calvinist theology taught by preacher and politician Abraham Kuyper.[5] In 1866 Kuyper founded the gereformeerd ("reformed") current of Protestantism that was both more conservative and more popular with ordinary people than the established Protestant
churches in the Netherlands. Kuyper's worldview asserted the principle of "sphere sovereignty", rejecting both ecclesiasticism (rule of the Church over all parts of the society) and statist secularism (rule of the state over all parts of the society). Instead he argued that both had their own spheres in which the other was not to interfere. In 1879 he founded the Anti-Revolutionary Party
Anti-Revolutionary Party
as the political wing of his religious movement and core of the Protestant
pillar. At the same time, new and old elites tried to maintain their control over the newly emancipated social groups. For instance, the Catholic clergy set up confessional unions to prevent Catholic
workers from joining socialist unions. One reason behind the formation of Christian parties was to counter the feared rise of left-wing mass parties.[5] Institutions
by pillar[edit] The following table shows the most important institutions by pillar:

  Protestant Catholic Socialist Liberal

Political party before 1945

ARP (from 1879; gereformeerd) CHU (from 1908; hervormd) SGP (from 1918; bevindelijk gereformeerd)

AB (1904–1926) RKSP (1926-1945)

SDAP (from 1894)

LU (1885–1921; mainstream Freethinking) VDB (from 1901 left-wing Freethinking) BVL (1906–1921; old Freethinking) LSP (from 1921; right-wing Freethinking)

Political parties
Political parties
after 1945

ARP (until 1977) CHU (until 1977) CDA (from 1977; oecumenisch) GPV (1948-2001; gereformeerd-vrijgemaakt) RPF (1975–2001; orthodox Protestant) CU (from 2001; evangelical) SGP

KVP (until 1977) CDA (from 1977; ecumenical)

PvdA (from 1945)

PvdV (1946–1948; Humanist Freethinking) VVD (from 1948; Conservative
Freethinking) D66 (from 1966; Liberal Freethinking)

Broadcasting organisation

NCRV (Dutch Christian Radio Association) EO (Evangelical Broadcasting)

( Catholic
Radio Broadcasting Organisation) RKK Omroep (Roman Catholic
Communion Broadcasting)

VARA (Association of Workers' Radio Amateurs) O- LLiNK (Left Broadcasting)

AVRO (General United Radio Broadcasting Organisation) VPRO
(Liberal Protestant
Radio Broadcasting) VRON (Free Radio Broadcasting Netherlands) TROS
(Television & Radio Broadcasting Organisation) HOS (Humanist Broadcasting Foundation) POWNED (Well-Thinking Netherlands
And Such Public Broadcasting) O-WNL (Awakened Netherlands


CNV (Christian National Union) (from 1909) NWV Patrimonium (gereformeerd) (from 1876)

(Dutch Catholic
Union) (1925-1976) FNV (from 1976)

NVV (Dutch Alliance of Unions) (1906-1976) FNV (from 1976)

Employers PCW NKW none VNO


De Standaard
De Standaard
(gereformeerd) Friesch Dagblad
Friesch Dagblad
(Fryslân gereformeerd) Trouw
(gereformeerd) Nederlands Dagblad (vrijgemaakt) Reformatorisch Dagblad (gereformeerd)

De Tijd (1845-1974) De Volkskrant
De Volkskrant
(since 1919)

Het Vrije Volk Het Parool

Staatscourant (Public journal) Algemeen Handelsblad
Algemeen Handelsblad
(until 1970) Nieuwe Rotterdamsche Courant
Nieuwe Rotterdamsche Courant
(until 1970) NRC Handelsblad
NRC Handelsblad
(from 1970) De Telegraaf

Schools "School with bible" ( Protestant
oriented school), Protestant
Education Roman Catholic
School Free Schools, Public Schools Public Schools


Protestantse Theologische Universiteit (hervormd) Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
(gereformeerd) Theological University of the Christian Reformed Churches (bevindelijk gereformeerd) Theologische Universiteit (vrijgemaakt)

Radboud Universiteit Katholieke Universiteit Brabant

State-sponsored universities Universiteit voor Humanistiek Nyenrode Business Universiteit

Hospitals Green/Orange Cross White/Yellow Cross Green Cross

Sport clubs





Recreation (examples) Saturday football, weekend rugby Sunday football Dancing schools, Sunday football, korfball Folk dancing, weekend rugby, hockey, weekend football

Depillarisation[edit] After World War II
World War II
liberals and socialists, but also Protestants and Catholics, began to doubt the pillarised system. They founded a unity movement, the People's Movement Nederlandse Volksbeweging. Progressives of all pillars (including the Catholic
resistance movement Christofoor) were united in the aim to renew the political system (doorbraak, "breakthrough"). But pillarisation was ingrained in Dutch society, and could not be defeated that easily. In order to force this breakthrough, the socialist Social Democratic Workers' Party, the left-liberal VDB and the Christian-socialist CDU united to form the PvdA, a progressive party, which was open to all people. The new party did not, however, gain enough support under Catholics or Reformed and the PvdA became encapsulated in the socialist pillar. Television broadcasting was also pillarised, but everyone watched the same broadcasts nonetheless, since initially only one channel was available in the Netherlands
(during the 1950s). During the 1960s the pillars largely broke down, particularly under political criticism from D66 and the group Nieuw Links (nl) (New Left) in PvdA. Because of this and of increased mobility, many people could see that people from the other pillars were not that different from themselves. Increased wealth and education made people independent of many of the pillarised institutions, and young people did not want to be associated with these organisations anymore. In 1973, two main Protestant
parties, ARP and CHU, merged with the Catholic
KVP to form the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA). They first participated in the 1977 general elections. In 1976, the Catholic trade union Nederlands Katholiek Vakverbond (nl) (NKV) started to cooperate with the trade union of the Socialist pillar (NVV), to merge into the Federatie Nederlandse Vakbeweging
Federatie Nederlandse Vakbeweging
(FNV) in 1982. The pillarisation of society has not fully disappeared, and many remnants can still be seen in the 21st century: public television, for instance, is still divided in several organisations, instead of being one organisation. The Netherlands
has both public and religious schools, a divide which is also inherited from pillarisation. Moreover, some communities continue to behave as small "pillars" as of 2014[update], although rather than forming the structure of society (a pillar), this currently moves them outside the mainstream of society. Members of the Reformed Churches (liberated) have their own (primary and secondary) schools, their own national newspaper, and some other organizations, such as a labour union. Members of several pietist Reformed Churches have also founded their own schools, newspaper and political party. Increasingly, Muslim immigrants in the Netherlands are also using the legal possibilities created for the pillarised structure of society, by setting up their own schools. Belgium[edit]

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Apart from having no Protestant
pillar, Pillarisation
in Belgium
was very similar to that in Netherlands. There was also no "general" pillar, but a politically well-organised liberal pillar. In 1911, the British sociologist Seebohm Rowntree
Seebohm Rowntree
noted that in Belgium:

There is extraordinarily little social intercourse between Catholics and Liberals, and practically none between Catholics and Socialists. Politics enter into almost every phase of social activity and philanthropic effort, and it is the exception rather than the rule for persons holding different political opinions to co-operate in any other matter. Thus in one town there will be a Catholic, a Liberal and a Socialist trade union, a Catholic, a Liberal and a Socialist thrift society, each catering for similar people, but each confining its attentions to members of its own political party. The separation extends to cafes, gymnasia, choral, temperance, and literary societies; indeed it cuts through life![6]

In both Flanders
and Wallonia, societies are pillarised. In Flanders, Catholics were the dominant pillar, while the Socialists dominated in Wallonia. Even though the liberals are stronger in Belgium (particularly in Brussels) than in the Netherlands, they are still relatively weak, owing to their rather small, bourgeois support: liberal trade unions are very small. De Tijd, a financial daily, is the newspaper aligned with the liberals, as its readership consists mainly of liberal supporters. However, a Flemish newspaper with historical liberal roots, Het Laatste Nieuws, also exists. Denominational (many Catholic
and a few Jewish) schools receive some public money, although not parity of funding as in the Netherlands, so that tuition is almost completely free. Belgian universities charge more or less the same, relatively low, tuition fees. As a consequence of the language struggle in the latter half of the twentieth century, the pillars split over the language issue, which turnout became the most significant divisive factor in the nation. Now every language group has three pillars of its own. The pillar system remained to be the primordial societal dividing force much longer than it was in the Netherlands. Only near the end of the Cold War
Cold War
did it begin to lose importance, at least at the individual level, and to this day it continues to influence Belgian society. For example, even the 1999–2003 "Rainbow Coalition" of Guy Verhofstadt
Guy Verhofstadt
was often rendered with the terms of pillarisation. Political currents, which rose in late 20th century (Vlaams Blok, now Vlaams Belang, Groen!, N-VA
), did not attempt to build pillars. Pillarisation
was visible even in everyday social organisations such as musical ensembles, sport clubs, recreational facilities, etc. Weakened in the current situation, many major social organisations (trade unions, cooperatives, etc.) still strictly follow the lines of pillars though. Institutions
by pillar with their ethnic divisions[edit] The following table is limited to the most important institutions and it shows the current division of everyone by the three ethnic groups.

  Flemish Catholic Walloon Catholic German Catholic Flemish Socialist Walloon Socialist German Socialist Flemish Liberal Walloon Liberal German Liberal

Political parties
Political parties
before 1945 Catholic
Party Belgian Labour Party
Belgian Labour Party
(BWP/POB) Liberal Party

Political parties
Political parties
between 1945 and 1970 Christian Social Party (CVP/PSC) Belgian Socialist Party (BSP/PSB)

Liberal Party (until 1961) Party for Freedom and Progress (PVV/PLP/PFF) (since 1961)

Political parties
Political parties
after 1970

CVP (until 2001) CD&V (since 2001)

PSC (until 2002) CDH (since 2002)


SP (until 2001) SP.A (since 2001)


PVV (until 1992) VLD
(1992–2007) Open VLD
(since 2007)

PRL (since 2002 part of MR) MR (since 2002)


Trade unions Confederation of Christian Trade Unions
Confederation of Christian Trade Unions
(ACV/CSC) General Federation of Belgian Labour
General Federation of Belgian Labour
(ABVV/FGTB) General Confederation of Liberal Trade Unions of Belgium


Health insurance Christelijke Mutualiteit Mutualité chrétienne Christlichen Krankenkasse Socialistische Mutualiteit Mutualité socialiste Sozialistische Krankenkasse Liberale Mutualiteit Mutualité Libérale Freie Krankenkasse

Hospitals White/Yellow Cross Christian Fund Christian Fund (Center for) Homecare Socialist Fund Socialist Fund Solidarity for the Family Liberal Fund Liberal Fund

Aid agencies Caritas Vlaanderen Caritas en Belgique francophone et germanophone Caritas en Belgique Francophone-Deutschsprachiges Belgien FOS-Socialistische Solidariteit Solidarité Socialiste-FCD Solidariteit-FCD none none none


De Standaard Gazet van Antwerpen Het Volk Het Belang van Limburg Het Nieuwsblad

La Libre Belgique Grenz-Echo

Vooruit (until 1978) Volksgazet (until 1978) De Morgen
De Morgen
(since 1978)

none none

Het Laatste Nieuws De Tijd

Le Soir none

Cultural associations Davidsfonds none none Vermeylenfonds none none Willemsfonds none none

Schools Flemish Secretariat for Catholic
Education ( Catholic
Schools), Flemish Association of Catholic
Colleges Catholic
schools Public schools Public schools Public schools Public schools, non-denominational private schools Public schools, non-denominational private schools Public schools, non-denominational private schools

Major universities Katholieke Universiteit Leuven Université catholique de Louvain none Universiteit Gent Université de Liège none Vrije Universiteit Brussel Université libre de Bruxelles none

Other universities

Universiteit Antwerpen Industriële Hogeschool Brabant Hogeschool-Universiteit Vlaams Verbond van Katholieke Hogescholen Vesalius College Instituut voor Tropische Geneeskunde

Université de Namur Facultés Universitaires Catholiques de Mons Facultés universitaires Saint-Louis

none Trans-Universiteit Limburg Faculté Universitaire des Sciences Agronomiques de Gembloux none Erasmus Hogeschool Université de Mons none

Youth organizations

KVHV JONGCD&V Katholische Academische Verbindung Leuven SGV Chiro KSJ-KSA-VKSJ (nl) KLJ (nl) KAJ

FSC GCB Jeunes cdH

Die Junge Mitte FSC GCB

Rode Valken Animo Jong Links



SGP Les Jeunes Réformateurs


Banks Volksdepositokas Spaarbank Dexia none Bank van De Post Banque de La Poste Bank von der Post Generale Bankmaatschappij Générale de Banque Generale Bank

Sport clubs

Sporta (nl) Gym & Dans Vlaanderen

none none

AVB (1919–2000) FROS (1976–2000) VASCO (1993–2000) FROS Amateursportconfederatie vzw (since 2000)

none none none none none

Proporz in Austria[edit] Main article: Proporz

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The Austrian version of Verzuiling is the long-standing Proporz doctrine (a hypocorism for Proportionalität, German for 'proportionality'). This was first only within the politics of the second Austrian republic, but later degenerated into a neo-corporatist system of patronage and nepotism pervading many aspects of Austrian life. The Proporz was created, developed and promoted by the two mainstream parties, the Catholic
Austrian People's Party
Austrian People's Party
(ÖVP) and the Social-Democratic
Socialist Party of Austria
(since 1991 Social Democratic Party of Austria, both names with the acronym of SPÖ). This de facto two-party system collapsed with the elections of 1999, which resulted in the joining of the national-conservative Freedom Party of Austria
(FPÖ), whose political marginalization and that of its predecessor, the Federation of Independents (VdU), was the main reason for the establishment of the Proporz policy, because of their pro-German and individualist views. The Proporz system arose out of the need for balanced, consensual governance in the early years of Austria's second republic. At that time, the country was consumed in an effort to rebuild the country after the devastation of World War II. Thus, the doctrine of Proporz is intimately linked to the idea of the grand coalition, in which the major political parties, in the case of post-war Austria
the SPÖ and the ÖVP, share in the government. See also[edit]

portal Netherlands
portal Politics portal Religion portal Society portal

Consociationalism Identity politics Millet (Ottoman Empire) Sectarianism Social environment Sui iuris Test Act


^ Melaugh, Dr Martin. "CAIN: Issues - Discrimination: 'Discrimination and Employment' from Perspectives on Discrimination
and Social Work in Northern Ireland". cain.ulst.ac.uk. Retrieved 2018-03-30.  ^ O'Hara, Mary (14 April 2004). "Self-imposed apartheid". the Guardian.  ^ "Only in Scottish schools is there this kind of segregation". HeraldScotland.  ^ John Halsey Wood Jr., Going Dutch in the Modern Age: Abraham Kuyper's Struggle for a Free Church in the Netherlands
(2013). ^ a b c d Van Zanden, Jan L. (1998), The Economic History of the Netherlands
1914-1995: A small open economy in the 'long' twentieth century, Routledge, p. 10  ^ Seebohm Rowntree's Land and Labour, Lessons from Belgium
(1911), quoted in Cliff, Tony (Spring 1961). "Belgium: Strike to Revolution?". International Socialism. 1 (4): 10–7. Retrieved 19 May 2016. 

Further reading[edit]

Deschouwer, Kris (2001), "Freezing pillars and frozen cleavages: Party systems and voting alignments in consociational democracies", Party Systems and Voter Alignments Revisited, Routledge, pp. 205–221  Post, Harry (1989), Pillarization: An Analysis of Dutch and Belgian Society, Avebury  van Schendelen, M. P. C. M. (1984), Consociationalism, pillarization and conflict-management in the Low Countries, Boom  Christophe de Voogd: "Histoire des Pays-Bas des origines à nos jours", Fayard, Paris, 2004

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Segregation in countries by type

Geographical (religious)

Bosnia and Herzegovina Partition of India Northern Ireland Greece and Turkey Partition of Bengal Saudi Arabia Bahrain Myanmar


Australia Argentina Canada Bahrain Brazil Dominican Republic Fiji France Malaysia Nazi Germany Poland Portugal Rhodesia South Africa Spain Saudization Emiratisation United States

schools Anti-miscegenation laws
Anti-miscegenation laws
in the United States


Islam (in Iran) Taliban Saudi Arabia Judaism Separatist feminism


Auto-segregation Balkanization Ethnic cleansing Exclusionary zoning Forced migration Internment

labor camps

Residential segregation in the United States Social exclusion

Related topics



Anti-miscegenation laws Black Codes Corporative federalism Discrimination Hafrada Jim Crow laws Nativism Nuremberg Laws Racism Rankism Religious intolerance Reservation in India Second-class citizen Separate but equal Separate school (Canada) Shunning Social apartheid Xenophobia

See also: Desegregation


Pillarisation Category

caste gender racial


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Religion and politics

General concepts


Anticlericalism and Freemasonry

Caesaropapism Clericalism

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Papal ban

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Reich Church

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Mormon feminism

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Evangelical left

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In Utah

Christian state Christian Zionism Cisalpinism Dominion Theology Febronianism Gallicanism Liberation theology Papal state Pillarisation Political Catholicism Relations between the Catholic
Church and the state

In Argentina

Sphere sovereignty Subsidiarity Temporal power Theodemocracy Ultramontanism


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by country

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