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On the Development of the Concept of Consociational Democracy


Dr. Azmi Bishara

This paper explores the theoretical model behind the concept of “consociational democracy”, beginning with its roots in the Austrian Marxist tradition to its elaboration in 1969 by the Dutch-American political scientist Arend Lijphart. Lijphart’s work was part of his wider critique of Gabriel Almond’s categorization of Western political systems. This study presents a structural criticism of the term “consociational democracy” and its usage, arguing that the practice of "consociational democracy" was born of pragmatic policies before maturing into a theoretical model. It further argues that the subsequent contributions by Lijphart were an extrapolation from a set of country case studies that lack an underlying "theory" and that “power sharing” does not necessarily lead to democratization. The study thus draws up several theoretical observations that help distinguish “consociationalism” from “consociational democracy”. Finally, the paper contrasts the suitability of this theoretical model in the case of Northern Ireland and Lebanon.

To read the full text of this paper as a PDF, click here .This paper was originally published in the January, 2018 edition of  Siyasat Arabiya, the ACRPS' journal devoted to political science and strategic studies.