kən-SOH-shee-AY-shən-əl-iz-əm ) is often viewed as synonymous with
POWER-SHARING, although it is technically only one form of
Consociationalism is often seen as having close affinities with
corporatism ; some consider it to be a form of corporatism while
others claim that economic corporatism was designed to regulate class
conflict , while consociationalism developed on the basis of
reconciling societal fragmentation along ethnic and religious lines.
The goals of consociationalism are governmental stability, the
survival of the power-sharing arrangements, the survival of democracy
, and the avoidance of violence . When consociationalism is organised
along religious confessional lines, it is known as confessionalism ,
as is the case in
* 1 Definition
* 2 Concept origins
* 3 Characteristics
* 4 Favourable conditions
* 5 Advantages
* 6 Criticisms
* 6.2 Rinus van Schendelen
* 6.3 Lustick on hegemonic control
* 6.4 Other criticisms
* 7 Examples
* 8 See also
* 9 References
* 10 Further reading
Political scientists define a consociational state as a state which
has major internal divisions along ethnic, religious, or linguistic
lines, with none of the divisions large enough to form a majority
group, yet nonetheless manages to remain stable, due to consultation
among the elites of each of its major social groups. Consociational
states are often contrasted with states with majoritarian electoral
Consociationalism was discussed in academic terms by the political
Arend Lijphart . However, Lijphart has stated that he had
"merely discovered what political practitioners had repeatedly – and
independently of both academic experts and one another – invented
John McGarry and Brendan O\'Leary trace
consociationalism back to 1917, when it was first employed in the
Indeed, Lijphart draws heavily on the experience of the Netherlands
in developing his argument in favour of the consociational approach to
ethnic conflict regulation. The Netherlands, as a consociational
state, was between 1857 and 1967 divided into four non-territorial
Catholic , socialist , and general , although
until 1917 there was a plurality ("first past the post") electoral
system rather than a consociational one. In their heyday, each
comprised tightly-organised groups, schools, universities, hospitals
and newspapers, all divided along a pillarised social structure. The
theory, according to Lijphart, focuses on the role of social elites,
their agreement and co-operation, as the key to a stable democracy.
Lijphart identifies four key characteristics of consociational
Elites of each pillar come together to rule in the interests of
society because they recognize the dangers of non-cooperation.
Consensus among the groups is required to confirm the majority
rule. Mutuality means that the minority is unlikely to successfully
block the majority. If one group blocks another on some matter, the
latter are likely to block the former in return.
Representation is based on population. If one pillar accounts for
30% of the overall society, then they occupy 30% of the positions on
the police force, in civil service, and in other national and civic
segments of society.
Creates a sense of individuality and allows for different
culturally-based community laws.
Consociational policies often have these characteristics:
* Coalition cabinets , where executive power is shared between
parties, not concentrated in one. Many of these cabinets are
oversized, meaning they include parties not necessary for a
* Balance of power between executive and legislative ;
* Decentralized and federal government, where (regional) minorities
have considerable independence;
* Incongruent bicameralism , where it is very difficult for one
party to gain a majority in both houses. Normally one chamber
represents regional interests and the other national interests ;
Proportional representation , to allow (small) minorities to gain
* Organized and corporatist interest groups, which represent
* A rigid constitution , which prevents government from changing the
constitution without consent of minorities;
Judicial review , which allows minorities to go to the courts to
seek redress against laws that they see as unjust;
* Elements of direct democracy , which allow minorities to enact or
* Proportional employment in the public sector;
* A neutral head of state , either a monarch with only ceremonial
duties, or an indirectly elected president, who gives up his or her
party affiliation after being elected;
* Referendums are only used to allow minorities to block
legislation: this means that they must be a citizen\'s initiative and
that there is no compulsory voting.
* Equality between ministers in cabinet, the prime minister is only
primus inter pares ;
* An independent central bank , where experts and not politicians
set out monetary policies.
Lijphart also identifies a number of "favourable conditions" under
which consociationalism is likely to be successful. He has changed the
specification of these conditions somewhat over time. Michael Kerr
summarises Lijphart's most prominent favourable factors as:
* Segmental isolation of ethnic communities
* A multiple balance of power
* The presence of external threats common to all communities
* Overarching loyalties to the state
* A tradition of elite accommodation
* Socioeconomic equality
* A small population size, reducing the policy load
* A moderate multi-party system with segmental parties
Lijphart stresses that these conditions are neither indispensable nor
sufficient to account for the success of consociationalism. This has
led Rinus van Schendelen to conclude that "the conditions may be
present and absent, necessary and unnecessary, in short conditions or
no conditions at all".
John McGarry and Brendan O\'Leary argue that three conditions are key
to the establishment of democratic consociational power-sharing:
elites have to be motivated to engage in conflict regulation; elites
must lead deferential segments; and there must be a multiple balance
of power, but more importantly the subcultures must be stable.
Michael Kerr, in his study of the role of external actors in
power-sharing arrangements in
Northern Ireland and Lebanon, adds to
McGarry and O'Leary's list the condition that "the existence of
positive external regulating pressures, from state to non-state
actors, which provide the internal elites with sufficient incentives
and motives for their acceptance of, and support for, consociation".
In a consociational state, all groups, including minorities, are
represented on the political and economic stage. Supporters of
consociationalism argue that it is a more realistic option in deeply
divided societies than integrationist approaches to conflict
management . It has been credited with supporting successful and
non-violent transitions to democracy in countries such as South Africa
Brian Barry has questioned the nature of the divisions that exist in
the countries that Lijphart considers to be "classic cases" of
consociational democracies. For example, he makes the case that in the
Swiss example, "political parties cross-cut cleavages in the society
and provide a picture of remarkable consensus rather than highly
structured conflict of goals". In the case of the Netherlands, he
argues that "the whole cause of the disagreement was the feeling of
some Dutchman ... that it mattered what all the inhabitants of the
country believed. Demands for policies aimed at producing religious or
secular uniformity presuppose a concern ... for the state of grace of
one's fellow citizens". He contrasts this to the case of a society
marked by conflict, in this case
Northern Ireland , where he argues
that "the inhabitants ... have never shown much worry about the
prospects of the adherents of the other religion going to hell".
Barry concludes that in the Dutch case, consociationalism is
tautological and argues that "the relevance of the 'consociational'
model for other divided societies is much more doubtful than is
RINUS VAN SCHENDELEN
Rinus van Schendelen has argued that Lijphart uses evidence
Pillarisation was "seriously weakening", even in the
1950s, cross-denominational co-operation was increasing, and formerly
coherent political sub-cultures were dissolving. He argued that elites
Netherlands were not motivated by preferences derived from the
general interest, but rather by self-interest. They formed coalitions
not to forge consociational negotiation between segments but to
improve their parties' respective power. He argued that the
Netherlands was "stable" in that it had few protests or riots, but
that it was so before consociationalism, and that it was not stable
from the standpoint of government turnover. He questioned the extent
to which the Netherlands, or indeed any country labelled a
consociational system, could be called a democracy, and whether
calling a consociational country a democracy isn't somehow ruled out
by definition. He believed that Lijphart suffered severe problems of
rigor when identifying whether particular divisions were cleavages,
whether particular cleavages were segmental, and whether particular
cleavages were cross-cutting.
LUSTICK ON HEGEMONIC CONTROL
Ian Lustick has argued that academics lack an alternative "control"
approach for explaining stability in deeply divided societies and that
this has resulted in the empirical overextension of consociational
models. Lustick argues that Lijphart has "an impressionistic
methodological posture, flexible rules for coding data, and an
indefatigable, rhetorically seductive commitment to promoting
consociationalism as a widely applicable principle of political
engineering", that results in him applying consociational theory to
case studies that it does not fit. Furthermore, Lustick states that
"Lijphart's definition of 'accommodation' ... includes the elaborately
specified claim that issues dividing polarized blocs are settled by
leaders convinced of the need for settlement".
Critics point out that consociationalism is dangerous in a system of
differing antagonistic ideologies , generally conservatism and
communism . They state that specific conditions must exist for three
or more groups to develop a multi- system with strong leaders. This
philosophy is dominated by elites, with those masses that are
sidelined with the elites having less to lose if war breaks out.
Consociationalism cannot be imperially applied. For example, it does
not effectively apply to
Austria . Critics also point to the failure
of this line of reasoning in
Lebanon , a country that reverted to
civil war. It only truly applies in
Belgium and the
Netherlands, and not in more deeply divided societies. If one of three
groups gets half plus one of the vote, then the other groups are in
perpetual opposition, which is largely incompatible with
Consociationalism focuses on diverging identities such as ethnicity
instead of integrating identities such as class, institutionalizing
and entrenching the former. Furthermore, it relies on rival
co-operation, which is inherently unstable. It focuses on intrastate
relations and neglects relations with other states. Donald L. Horowitz
argues that consociationalism can lead to the reification of ethnic
divisions, since "grand coalitions are unlikely, because of the
dynamics of intraethnic competition. The very act of forming a
multiethnic coalition generates intraethnic competition – flanking
– if it does not already exist". Consistent with Horowitz' claims,
Dawn Brancati finds that federalism/territorial autonomy, an element
of consociationalism, strengthens ethnic divisions if it is designed
in a way that strengthens regional parties, which in turn encourage
Consociationalism assumes that each group is cohesive and has strong
leadership. Although the minority can block decisions, this requires
100 per cent agreement. Rights are given to communities rather than
individuals, leading to over-representation of some individuals in
society and under-representation of others. Grand coalitions are
unlikely to happen due to the dynamics of ethnic competition. Each
group seeks more power for itself. Consociationalists are criticized
for focusing too much on the set up of institutions and not enough on
transitional issues which go beyond such institutions. Finally, it is
claimed that consociational institutions promote sectarianism and
entrench existing identities.
The political systems of a number of countries operate on a
consociational basis, including
Belgium , Cyprus (effective
Lebanon , the
Netherlands (1917–1967), Switzerland
South Africa . Some academics have also argued that the European
Union resembles a consociational democracy.
Additionally, a number of peace agreements are consociational,
Dayton Agreement that ended the 1992–1995 war in Bosnia and
Herzegovina , which is described as a "classic example of
consociational settlement" by
Sumantra Bose and "an ideal-typical
consociational democracy" by Roberto Belloni.
Belfast Agreement of 1998 in
Northern Ireland (and its
subsequent reinforcement with 2006's
St Andrews Agreement
St Andrews Agreement ), which
Brendan O'Leary describes as "power-sharing plus".
Ohrid Agreement of 2001 setting the constitutional framework
for power-sharing in the
Republic of Macedonia
Republic of Macedonia .
Afghanistan 's political system has also been described
as consociational, although it lacks ethnic quotas.
In addition to the two-state solution , some have argued for a
one-state solution under a consociational democracy in the state of
Israel to solve the
Arab-Israeli Conflict , but this solution is not
very popular, nor has it been discussed seriously at peace
During the 1980s the South African government attempted to reform
apartheid into a consociational democracy. The South African
Constitution of 1983 applied Lijpart's powersharing ideas by
establishing a Tricameral Parliament. During the 1990s negotiations to
end apartheid the National Party (NP) and Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP)
proposed a settlement based upon consociationalism. The African
National Congress (ANC) opposed consociationalism and proposed instead
a settlement based upon majoritarian democracy. The NP abandoned
consociationalism when the US State Department came out in favour of
the majoritarian democracy model in 1992.
* ^ O'Leary, Brendan (2005). "Debating consociational politics:
Normative and explanatory arguments". In Noel, Sid JR. From Power
Sharing to Democracy: Post-Conflict Institutions in Ethnically Divided
Societies. Montreal: McGill-Queen's Press. pp. 3–43. ISBN
* ^ Anke Hassel. Wage setting, Social Pacts and the Euro: A New
Role for the State. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Amsterdam University
Press, 2006. p. 281.
* ^ Lijphart, Arend (2004). "Constitutional design for divided
societies" (PDF). Journal of
Democracy . 15 (2): 96–109 . doi
* ^ McGarry, John; O'Leary, Brendan (1993). "Introduction: The
macro-political regulation of ethnic conflict". In McGarry, John;
O'Leary, Brendan. The Politics of Ethnic Conflict Regulation: Case
Studies of Protracted Ethnic Conflicts. London: Routledge. pp. 1–40.
ISBN 0-415-07522-X .
* ^ A B Lijphart, Arend (1977).
Democracy in Plural Societies: A
Comparative Exploration. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. ISBN
* ^ Lijphart, Arend; Crepaz, Markus M. L. :
Democracy in Eighteen Countries: Conceptual and Empirical
Linkages; British Journal of Political Science, Vol. 21, No. 2 (Apr.,
1991), pp. 235–46
* ^ Bogaards, Matthijs (1998). "The favourable factors for
consociational democracy: A review". European Journal of Political
Research. 33 (4): 475–96. doi :10.1111/1475-6765.00392 .
* ^ A B Kerr, Michael (2006). Imposing Power-Sharing: Conflict and
Northern Ireland and Lebanon. Dublin: Irish Academic
Press. pp. 27–28. ISBN 978-0-7165-3383-2 .
* ^ A B van Schendelen, M.C.P.M. (1984). "The views of Arend
Lijphart and collected criticisms".
Acta Politica . Palgrave
Macmillan. 19 (1): 19–49.
* ^ McGarry, John; O'Leary, Brendan (1995). Explaining Northern
Ireland: Broken Images. Oxford: Blackwell. p. 339. ISBN
* ^ McGarry, John; O'Leary, Brendan (2006). "Consociational theory,
Northern Ireland's conflict, and its agreement 2: What critics of
consociation can learn from Northern Ireland". Government and
Opposition. 41 (2): 249–77. doi :10.1111/j.1477-7053.2006.00178.x .
* ^ A B Barry, Brian (1975). "Political accommodation and
consociational democracy". British Journal of Political Science. 5
JSTOR 193439 . doi :10.1017/S0007123400008322 .
* ^ Barry, Brian (1975). "The consociational model and its
dangers". European Journal of Political Research. 3 (4): 393–412.
doi :10.1111/j.1475-6765.1975.tb01253.x .
* ^ Lustick, Ian (1979). "Stability in deeply divided societies:
Consociationalism versus control". World Politics. 31 (3): 325–44.
JSTOR 2009992 . doi :10.2307/2009992 .
* ^ A B Lustick, Ian (1997). "Lijphart, Lakatos, and
consociationalism". World Politics. 50 (1): 88–117.
JSTOR 25054028 .
doi :10.1017/S0043887100014738 .
* ^ Horowitz, Donald (1985). Ethnic Groups in Conflict. Berkeley,
CA: University of California Press. p. 575. ISBN 0-520-22706-9 .
* ^ Dawn Brancati, Peace by Design: Managing Intrastate Conflict
through Decentralization, Oxford University Press, 2009,
* ^ Wolff, Stefan (2004). Disputed Territories: The Transnational
Dynamics of Ethnic Conflict Settlement. Berghahn Books. pp. 30–31.
* ^ Wippman, David (1998). "Practical and Legal Constraints on
Internal Power Sharing". In Wippman, David. International Law and
Ethnic Conflict. Cornell University Press. p. 220.
* ^ Bahcheli, Tozun; Noel, Sid (2005). "Power Sharing for Cyprus
European Union Accession and the Prospects for
Reunification". In Noel, Sid. Relations of Ruling: Class and Gender in
Postindustrial Societies. McGill-Queen's University Press. p. 215.
* ^ Gabel, Matthew J. (1998). "The endurance of supranational
governance: A consociational interpretation of the European Union".
Comparative Politics. 30 (4): 463–75.
JSTOR 422334 . doi
* ^ Bogaards, Matthijs; Crepaz, Markus M.L. (2002). "Consociational
interpretations of the European Union".
European Union Politics . 3
(3): 357–81. doi :10.1177/1465116502003003004 .
* ^ Bose, Sumantra (2002). Bosnia After Dayton: Nationalist
Partition and International Intervention. Oxford: Oxford University
Press. p. 216. ISBN 1-85065-585-5 .
* ^ Belloni, Roberto (2004). "Peacebuilding and consociational
electoral engineering in Bosnia and Herzegovina". International
Peacekeeping. 11 (2): 334–53 . doi :10.1080/1353331042000237300 .
* ^ O'Leary, Brendan (2001). "The character of the 1998 Agreement:
Results and prospects". In Wilford, Rick. Aspects of the Belfast
Agreement. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 49–83. ISBN
* ^ O'Leary, Brendan (1999). "The 1998 British-Irish Agreement:
Power-sharing plus". Scottish Affairs. 26: 14–35.
* ^ Lijphart, Arend (2008). Thinking about Democracy: Power Sharing
and Majority Rule in Theory and Practice. Abingdon: Routledge. p. 5.
ISBN 0-415-77268-0 .
* ^ Adeney, Katharine (2008). "Constitutional design and the
political salience of 'community' identity in Afghanistan: Prospects
for the emergence of ethnic conflicts in the post-
Taliban era". Asian
Survey. 48 (4): 535–57. doi :10.1525/as.2008.48.4.535 .
* ^ Hamill, James (2003). "A disguised surrender? South Africa's
negotiated settlement and the politics of conflict resolution".
Diplomacy & Statecraft. 14:3: 17–18.
* S. Issacharoff , "Constitutionalizing
Democracy in Fractured
Societies", Texas Law Review 82, 2004.
Ingroups and outgroups
* Arab League
* Indigenous Oceanian
Europeans in Oceania
* United States
* Central America
* South America
* Ethnicity in census
Ethnic interest group
Ethnic theme park
* Ethnic slur
* Separatist movements