"The man, the administration and the counter-discourse”: An analysis of the sudden turn in Dutch nature conservation policy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

56 Citations (Scopus)


The Netherlands were at the forefront of European nature conservation policy until recently. For years, a stable ‘social contract’ around Dutch nature conservation existed. To the surprise of many, this stability suddenly disappeared and Dutch nature policy has taken a dramatic shift with changing discourses on nature conservation, the halting of implementation of several key-policies and budget cuts up to 70%. This paper engages with discursive-institutionalism to understand such abrupt institutional changes through emerging ideas and discourses that reshape and undermine existing institutional arrangements. We show how the institutionalization of policy not only engendered but also restricted the impact of critical discourses in the 1990s and 2000s. However, critical discourses eventually played an important role in the sudden turn in nature conservation policy. The rise of a general populist discourse and the economic crisis contributed to the credibility of critical discourses and their translation into popular frames and storylines. Authoritative actors such as a new State Secretary opened up popular media for the critical discourses and contributed to their resonance among larger audiences. As such, the man and his new administration successfully used already existing counter-discourses to de-legitimise nature policy and break down important institutional arrangements at a pace unseen in Dutch politics. Adding a discursive element to institutionalism provides for analytical tools to understand change from both external as well as internal forces. In turn, enriching discourse theory with insights from neo-institutionalism helps to evaluate which ideas and discourses become materialized in policy and practice
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)676-684
JournalLand Use Policy
Publication statusPublished - May 2014


  • management
  • restoration
  • netherlands
  • implementation
  • institutions
  • valuation
  • conflicts
  • state


Dive into the research topics of '"The man, the administration and the counter-discourse”: An analysis of the sudden turn in Dutch nature conservation policy'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this