Party Elites in Divided Societies: Political Parties in Consociational Democracy

By Kurt Richard Luther; Kris Deschouwer | Go to book overview
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‘Prudent leadership’ to successful adaptation?

Pillar parties and consociational democracy thirty years on

Kurt Richard Luther and Kris Deschouwer


This concluding chapter will highlight what we believe to be some of the most significant overall insights provided by the comparative framework applied in this volume. Our empirical focus will be restricted to the four archetypal West European consociational democracies: Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland. We will address first the role of pillar parties within their respective subcultures and then their role in inter-subcultural accommodation. Thereafter, we shall offer some tentative conclusions about the role of pillar parties in the dynamics of continuity and change in consociational democracies.

Pillar parties’ intra-subcultural linkages: weakening or resilient?

Organisational penetration

Of the two indicators of subcultural penetration proposed in Luther’s framework, that pertaining to auxiliary association membership proved the more difficult to measure. Though the country studies each provided useful information on the nature and extent of subcultural auxiliary association membership, the lack of comparability of many of the data makes it difficult to provide an overall quantification of the size of the associations and the extent of change in their penetration of their respective subcultures. However, the general message is clear: in both absolute and relative terms, auxiliary association membership has been highest in Austria, which was closely followed by Belgium, and lower in the Netherlands (see also Pennings 1997). By comparison, Swiss auxiliary associations have never been anything like as well developed (and will not be considered further here). Second, the nature of auxiliary associations was different in Austria and Belgium on the one hand and the Netherlands on the other. In the first two, the sociocultural organisations were complemented by large associations linked to the para-state and closely involved in access to (and the allocation of) state resources. As Andeweg has shown, Dutch auxiliary associations were much less likely to assume this gatekeeper role. Third, the picture regarding the timing and extent of change in total auxiliary association membership is quite complex and


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Party Elites in Divided Societies: Political Parties in Consociational Democracy


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