The Pillarization Of American Politics
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Politics and Activism

The Pillarization Of American Politics

Is the Netherlands' Past America's Future?

The Pillarization Of American Politics
Wikimedia Commons

In my interactions with the administrative staff on the Alternate Timelines Forum, which I moderate, I have come to some basic familiarity of politics of the Netherlands, given that two of its moderators are from that country. Reading through that country’s storied history, I came upon a somewhat disturbing and eerily prescient bit of its social organization which, like segregation in the United States, left its mark.

That was pillarization, an institution of social segregation between different ‘pillars’ of Dutch society, the brainchild of theologian, philosopher, and Prime Minister Abraham Kuyper. Kuyper believed that the notion of the individual sovereignty of the French Revolution and the notion of what he perceived as absolute state sovereignty in Germany were both utterly flawed and that proper sovereignty was at the level of communities within broader societies.

Thence from that conception of sovereignty was the notion of the pillars, where the Catholic, Protestant, liberal secular and socialist spheres were each wholly separate from one another, and thusly each had their own clubs and bars and schools and trade unions. People often had very little connection with the other spheres, something that only formally ceased to be after the Second World War.

And now, looking at my own country, the parallels are striking. We have a tremendous urban-rural divide and a tremendous liberal-conservative divide. All too often those on both sides refuse to interact with each other or are unable to do so.

Our social media only enables this coming division, with algorithms tailoring what is shown to every user, playing to their biases in ways that are far from obvious, creating an insulating effect. These distinct ideological pillars each have their own news media which savagely criticized the other, reducing those who disagree to caricatures.

Is what Kuyper promoted our nation’s future? I fear it may well be. The collapse of the center and of productive dialogue in this country has divided us in ways that have condemned far too many to be locked up in their own echo chamber, having little interaction with the ‘other.’

This is not to say these pillars do not have their own internal divisions on racial, economic, regional, etc. lines, but there are clear distinctions between the ‘liberal’ pillar and the ‘conservative’ pillar, as well as smaller pillars of more fringe ideologies (libertarianism, the far left, etc.).

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