Meindert Fennema, born in Leeuwarden, the Netherlands, in 1946. Ph.D. from the University of Amsterdam. Associate Professor of Political Theory at the University of Amsterdam.
Fellow (1 September 2000 – 30 June 2002)
I intended to use the year at NIAS to develop a theoretical framework for the study of ethnic organisations as civic communities and to write one or two articles based on our empirical study of interlocking directorates among business corporations. I also used the year to finalise a number of papers, to prepare a third revised edition of my book De Moderne Democratie, to co-write a paper on the electorate support for anti-immigrant parties in the European Community (Van der Brug and Fennema forthcoming) and to start a new research project that will aim at a biography of Dr. H.M. Hirschfeld by writing an essay on his performance as head of the Ministry of Economic Affairs during World War Two. This essay on Hirschfeld’s war record was more than I could have hoped for. In view of my initial plans, I did fairly well in developing the theoretical framework for the book on Multicultural Democracy that I planned to write with Jean Tillie and I also managed to write a paper on the transnational business community, revisiting my dissertation, which was an old and cherished wish. A joint and comparative paper on different national business systems is in progress. To prepare the ground for a theoretical framework on ethnic communities I wrote a working paper in which I tried to relate the graph theory of social networks to the sociological theories of social capital. This working paper helped me very much to write the second chapter of the book on “Multicultural Democracy”. Tillie and I consider civic communities as hotbeds of social capital. The concept of civic community refers to networks of voluntary associations of free citizens that are set up to pursue a common goal or a common interest. Tighter networks of voluntary associations provide better possibilities for interest articulation, create more civic competence among the citizens and produce more social capital for the community. In our study of ethnic groups in Amsterdam the concept of civic community is invoked to explain political participation and trust in political institutions. Comparing these data with those collected in Zurich and Liege we found that differences in political opportunity structure account for differences in the degree of civic community among ethnic groups. I organised, also together with Jean Tillie, two NIAS seminars on “Ethnic Civic Communities and Multicultural Democracy”. One on 22 -23 March, the other on 28-29 June. Our purpose is to apply for a European Science Foundation network to co-ordinate the research that is planned in several European capitals along the lines set out by Jean Tillie and myself. It is unlikely that we would have found the money, the time and the energy needed to set up a ESF network if we had not both been NIAS Fellows. I participated, of course, in the NIAS workshop “Corporate Governance in a Globalizing World: Changes in Structure and Strategy” (April 2001), where Bill Carroll and I presented a first draft of our paper on the transnational business community.