Federalism and the Organization of Political Life: Canada in Comparative Perspective

By Herman Bakvis | Go to book overview

3

Model
Canada and the
Consociational

In grappling with the problem of Canadian unity, one major question arises: what strategies can be employed to mitigate or override the centrifugal tendencies in the Canadian federation? Here, I will examine some of the literature on political integration and evaluate in detail one specific model of political integration -- the consociational politics model. The model stresses the importance of elite accommodation and the insulation and non-participation of citizens. It has been used by Canadian social scientists for both analytical and prescriptive purposes. How accurate is it as a description of political reality in Canada and in other countries? Should we encourage the growth of mechanisms and institutions to promote consociationalism in Canada? Or could such a strategy backfire and create more problems than might be solved? In part, the task will be to identify institutions, both actual and proposed, which may help promote consociationalism, although they are not usually considered consociational. 1 I will also argue that the model developed by William Riker ( 1964), concerning the importance of the party system, is probably superior both for explaining the Canadian case and developing strategies to promote political integration.


A. Political Integration and Consociationalism

What do we mean by political integration? It involves the forces holding a political community together, as well as the factors which initiated the formation of a nation. One theme in the literature states that there should be a parallel growth in central institutions for collective decision-making and in mass orientations which legitimate them. This is the approach taken by Karl Deutsch et al in a work on Western Europe written in 1957. Deutsch developed a model of political integration which specified nine basic and necessary conditions. He was mainly interested in the possible

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