Functional Politicization in the Dutch Senior Civil Service: Evidence from Longitudinal Surveys and Qualitative Research (2007-2019)

Alex Belloir*, Caspar van den Berg

*Corresponding author for this work

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    Although substantial advances have been made in our comprehension of functional politicization - political capacities and activities being taken on by bureaucrats in their administrative duties - questions surrounding its causal mechanisms remain. To shed light on these questions, we here explore increasing political polarization (and fragmentation) in Dutch politics and functional politicization over the period 2007-2019 to see how the two are related. To do so, we adopt a cross-time approach that observes which skills - political-strategic insight, substantive expertise (Fachwissen), or procedural knowledge (Dienstwissen) - senior civil servants perceive to be the most relevant to successfully and correctly exercise their profession in a period of increasing polarization in the Dutch political landscape. Drawing from surveys conducted with senior civil servants in 2007, 2013 and 2019, combined with semi-structured interviews conducted in 2019, the data depicts the prevalence of political astuteness in the profession and highlights the factors for its causes: institutional, organizational, and interpersonal dynamics. This indicates an (in)direct link between political polarization and functional politicization of the administrative apparatus that serves as a basis for further cross-time and cross-country investigation.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)49-73
    Number of pages25
    JournalNISPAcee Journal of Public Administration and Policy
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Dec-2020


    • polarization
    • functional politicization
    • senior civil servants
    • political-administrative dichotomy
    • bureaucratic powers

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