This working paper contains the text of three Erasmus Lectures delivered at Harvard University on 20 and 27 November and 4 December 1989. The first lecture discusses possible linkages between ancient pluralism which characterized the loose state structure of the Dutch Republic until 179 and later democratization. It reviews two different interpretations (called "whig" and "radical" respectively) of the initial period of establishment of a unitary state between 1795 and 1813, and discusses in some detail the problems of corporate and individual rights, the concept of state and 19th century elite structures. The second lecture discusses different interpretations of verzuiling (the process of the formation of ideological subcultures. of Calvinists, Catholics and Socialists, and to a much lesser extent the Liberals). In addition to a critical appraisal of the influential model of consociational democracy as elaborated by Arend Lijphart it offers three further interpretations of the process of social segmentation: an emancipationist one, a social control version, and one focusing on the relation between modern and new pluralism. The third lecture analyses the extent to which Dutch politics and society has changed since the 1960s, when many of the traditional patterns of authority and decision-making were challenged as insufficiently democratic. The common theme of the three lectures is the perennial problem of the relation between state, group freedoms and individual liberty.