Civil Society and Political Institutions

Ian O'flynn

in Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print June 2006 | ISBN: 9780748621446
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748672004 | DOI:
Civil Society and Political Institutions

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This chapter addresses the question of whether and to what extent consociational institutions can accommodate the particular demands of ethnic groups while at the same time allowing sufficient space for the political articulation of interests and experiences that cut across ethnic lines. It argues that, when assessed in terms of the requirements of reciprocity and publicity, the standard consociational model, associated with the (early) work of Arend Lijphart, is found wanting on two grounds. First, it does not allow sufficient space for the kinds of alternative avenues of political expression through which cross-cutting interests and experiences can be expressed. Second, it does not provide sufficient space for opposition parties to check the behaviour of those in government and hence does not require them to justify their decisions on terms that everyone in society can accept. This constricts the scope for compromise and hence for the creation of the kinds of shareable goods that form the basis of a common national identity. A more sophisticated consociationalism can go some way towards responding to these objections. To this end, the chapter focuses on Brendan O'Leary's distinction between complete, concurrent, and weak consociations, and shows how this distinction can enhance the quality of democracy. It concludes that O'Leary's prescriptions can fully succeed in meeting the requirements of reciprocity and publicity only if those who design consociations are also willing to soften their emphasis on elite bargaining so as to make greater room for the interplay between civil society and elected representatives.

Keywords: consociational institutions; ethnic groups; reciprocity; publicity; Brendan O'Leary; consociations; democracy

Chapter.  10145 words. 

Subjects: Politics

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