Party Elites in Divided Societies: Political Parties in Consociational Democracy

By Kurt Richard Luther; Kris Deschouwer | Go to book overview
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The utility of party and institutional indicators of change in consociational democracies 1

Paul Pennings

Introduction

The bulk of this volume is concerned with the degree and nature of change in the four West European countries which have figured prominently in the literature on consociationalism. Using as his point of departure Lijphart’s early theory (Lijphart 1968a, 1968b and 1969), Luther (1992, 1997b and Chapter 1 of this volume) has deduced the role which parties and party systems might be expected to play in consociational democracies. These roles are then examined in five single-country studies and three comparative chapters. Luther explicitly rules out Lijphart’s later work, in which he extended his focus to embrace a much wider range of countries and of political phenomena and developed a distinction between ‘majoritarian’ and ‘consensus’democracies (Lijphart 1984a:1-36 and 207-22).

However, the aim of this chapter is to examine specifically the latest manifestation of Lijphart’s theory and to seek to establish the extent to which it is useful in determining the degree and nature of political change. Such an examination offers a useful addition to this volume, since the precise operationalisation of the concept of consensus democracy which Lijphart offers should facilitate the analysis of change. The main research question of this chapter is whether Lijphart’s operationalisation of consensus democracy can be improved by introducing indicators that are related to party behaviour.

Consensus democracy is the term that Lijphart uses for democracies in which power-sharing is the main institutional feature of long-term politics (Lijphart 1984a). Lijphart insists on distinguishing between the newer term ‘consensus democracy’ and the older term ‘consociationalism’. The latter term focuses on the societal structure that allegedly necessitates coalescent behaviour for effective political decision-making and that can be explained as a form of sociological functionalism. 2 Consensus democracy, on the other hand, focuses on the political institutions per se which facilitate effective decision-making under adversarial societal conditions and can be viewed as a form of institutional engineering (Keman 1996:212). In his suggestions as to how to operationalise consensus democracy, Lijphart is more explicit than he was when outlining the nature of consociationalism. He argues that the latter refers to four general mechanisms

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