The Dutch philosopher Spinoza is 'in the air', interest in him recently increasing considerably. At the same time, however, The Netherlands seem to turn away from the freedom of expression and tolerance that are championed in his work.

Does the country turn its back to its foundations or can it learn from what Spinoza and his contemporaries wrote? Does it turn away of what it zealously used to believe and brought into practice: that it can be socially engineered?

Rudi Rotthier asked those questions while traveling through the Netherlands for about eight months, after having received a grant from the Pascal Decroos Fund. A first article will appear this week in the Flemish weekly Knack.

The article focuses on an interview with parliamentarian Ahmed Marcouch (PvdA), a man with Moroccan roots, who finds the inspiration for his social actions, his political philosophy and even his reading of the Koran with Spinoza, who was banned from Judaism. In Marchouch's view, philosophy holds the key to integration, with knowledge being a prerequisite for freedom, and freedom of fear a prerequisite for development.

A second article will appear on August 14, 2012, dealing with the old roots of Dutch politics, and the discord between rationality and populism that rings through into the present electoral battle.

More articles will follow about the Netherlands as a country that can be socially engineered, with new districts and cities, that are never 100% comfortable to live in, but with which lessons have been learned from previous (failed) attempts to erect new districts. Other issues at hand are the renewed dispute about freedom of expression, whereby the idea that everything has to be able to be said is no longer self-evident.

Rudi Rotthier

Rudi Rotthier is a Belgian journalist and travel writer
A working grant of € 11.700 allocated 6/09/2011.
Fonds Pascal Decroos

4 July 2012 in Knack
14 August 2012 in Knack


Language: Dutch
Publication date: October 2013
Page's: 352
ISBN13: 9789045025520
Publisher: Atlas Contact