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Consociational Democracy


In Gabriel A. Almond's famous typology of political systems, first expounded in 1956, he distinguishes three types of Western democratic systems: Anglo-American political systems (exemplified by Britain and the United States), Continental European political systems (France, Germany, and Italy), and a third category consisting of the Scandinavian and Low Countries. The third type is not given a distinct label and is not described in detail; Almond merely states that the countries belonging to this type “combine some of the features of the Continental European and the Anglo-American” political systems, and “stand somewhere in between the Continental pattern and the Anglo-American.” Almond's threefold typology has been highly influential in the comparative analysis of democratic politics, although, like any provocative and insightful idea, it has also been criticized. This research note will discuss the concept of “consociational democracy” in a constructive attempt to refine and elaborate Almond's typology of democracies.

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1 Gabriel A. Almond, ”Comparative Political Systems,” Journal of Politics, xviii (August 1956), 392–93. 405.

2 Ibid., 398–99, 405–07 (italics omitted).

3 Kalleberg, “The Logic of Comparison: A Methodological Note on the Comparative Study of Political Systems,” World Politics, xix (October 1966), 7374. Hans Daalder's critical question “Why should France, Germany, and Italy be more ‘continental,’ tlian Holland, or Switzerland, or more ‘European’ than Britain?” seems to be based on a similar erroneous interpretation; see his “Parties, Elites, and Political Developments in Western Europe,” in LaPalombara Joseph and Weiner Myron, eds., Political Parties and Political Development (Princeton 1966), 43n.

4 Almond, 392. There is also no reason, therefore, to call the exclusion of Scandinavia and the Low Countries from the “Continental European” systems an “artificial qualifier,” as Kalleberg does, 74.

5 Almond, 408.

6 Truman David B., The Governmental Process: Political Interests and Public Opinion (New York 1951), 508, 511.

7 Bentley Arthur F., The Process of Government: A Study of Social Pressures, 4th ed.,(Evanston 1955), 208.

8 Lipset Seymour Martin, Political Man: The Social Bases of Politics (Garden City 1960), 8889.

9 Almond and Powell G. Bingham Jr., Comparative Politics: A Developmental Approach (Boston 1966), 122, 263; Almond and Verba Sidney, The Civic Culture: Political Attitudes and Democracy in Five Nations (Princeton 1963), 134.

10 “Political Systems and Political Change,” American Behavioral Scientist, vi (June 1963), 910.

11 Almond and Powell, 259 (italics omitted).

12 Almond, rapporteur, “A Comparative Study of Interest Groups and the Political Process,” American Political Science Review, LII (March 1958), 275–77; Almond, “A Functional Approach to Comparative Politics,” in Almond and Coleman James S., eds., The Politics of the Developing Areas (Princeton 1960), 4243. See also Lindahl Goran G., “Gabriel A. Almond's funktionella kategorier: En kritik,” Statsvetenskaplig Tid-shrift, No. 4 (1967), 263–72; and Constance E. van der Maesen and G. H. Scholten, “De functionele benadering van G. A. Almond bij het vergelijken van politieke stelsels,” Ada Politica, 1 (1965–66), 220–26.

13 “A Functional Approach,” 42.

14 Cf. Johannes Althusius’ concept of consociatio in his Politica Methodice Digesta, and the term “consociational” used by Apter David E., The Political Kingdom in Uganda: A Study in Bureaucratic Nationalism (Princeton 1961), 2425.

15 Ake Claude, A Theory of Political Integration (Homewood 1967), 113. This possibility exists not only in the fragmented democracies, but also in fragmented predemo-cratic or nondemocratic systems, of course. See also Lijphart Arend, The Politics of Accommodation: Pluralism and Democracy in the Netherlands (Berkeley 1968), 1–15, 197211.

16 Engelmann Frederick C., “Haggling for the Equilibrium: The Renegotiation of the Austrian Coalition, 1959,” American Political Science Review, LVI (September 1962), 651–52.

17 Kirchheimer, “The Waning of Opposition in Parliamentary Regimes,” Social Research, xxiv (Summer 1957), 137.

18 Lorwin, “Constitutionalism and Controlled Violence in the Modern State: The Case of Belgium” (paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Historical Association, San Francisco, 1965), 4 (italics added). For a description of the establishment of consociational democracy in the Netherlands, see Lijphart, The Politics of Accommodation, 103–12.

19 Dahrendorf, Society and Democracy in Germany (Garden City 1967), 276.

20 Nyerere, “One-Party Rule,” in Sigmund Paul E. Jr., ed., The Ideologies of the Developing Nations (New York 1963), 199.

21 Riker William H., The Theory of Political Coalitions (New Haven 1962), 29, 3233.

22 Almond, “Comparative Political Systems,” 398–99.

23 Lehmbruch, “A Non-Competitive Pattern of Conflict Management in Liberal Democracies: The Case of Switzerland, Austria and Lebanon” (paper presented at the Seventh World Congress of the International Political Science Association, Brussels, 1967), 6. See also Lehmbruch, Proporzdetnokratie: Politisches System und politische Kultur in der Schweiz und in Österreich (Tübingen 1967).

24 Dahl, Political Oppositions in Western Democracies (New Haven 1966), 337.

25 Lehmbruch, 8.

26 Hudson, “A Case of Political Underdevelopment,” Journal of Politics, xxix (November 1967), 836.

27 Griffith, “Cultural Prerequisites to a Successfully Functioning Democracy,” American Political Science Review, L (March 1956), 102.

28 Lehmbruch, 9.

29 Wright, “The Nature of Conflict,” Western Political Quarterly, iv (June 1951), 196.

30 Easton, A Systems Analysis of Political Life (New York 1965), 250–51 (italics added). See also Scholten G. H., “Het vergelijken van federaties met behulp van systeem-analyse,” Acta Politica, 11 (1966–67), 5168.

31 Verba, “Some Dilemmas in Comparative Research,” World Politics, xx (October 1967), 126 (italics added).

32 Connory, “Self-Determination: The New Phase,” World Politics, xx (October 1967), 4950.

33 Deutsch, Political Community at the International Level (Garden City 1954), 39.

34 Daalder, 69.

35 Lorwin, “Belgium: Religion, Class, and Language in National Politics,” in Dahl, ed., Political Oppositions in Western Democracies, 174.

36 Nordlinger, “Democratic Stability and Instability: The French Case,” World Politics, xviii (October 1965), 143.

37 Leites, On the Game of Politics in France (Stanford 1959), 2.

38 Nor does the reverse assumption hold true. Giovanni Sartori relates the instability of Italian democracy to “poor leadership, both in the sense that the political elites lack the ability for problem-solving and that they do not provide a generalized leadership.” This weakness of leadership, he continues, “is easily explained by the fragmentation of the party system and its ideological rigidity.” (“European Political Parties: The Case of Polarized Pluralism,” in LaPalombara and Weiner, eds., Political Parties and Political Development, 163.) The example of the consociational democracies shows that this is not a sufficient explanation.

39 Converse and Dupeux, “Politicization of the Electorate in France and the United States,” Public Opinion Quarterly, xxvi (Spring 1962), 123.

40 MacRae, Parliament, Parties, and Society in France: 1946–1958 (New York 1967), 333.

41 Hoffmann and others, In Search of France (Cambridge 1963), 8 (italics omitted); Crozier, The Bureaucratic Phenomenon (Chicago 1964), 220.

42 Duverger, “The Development of Democracy in France,” in Ehrmann Henry W., ed., Democracy in a Changing Society (New York 1964), 77.

43 Verba, “Germany: The Remaking of Political Culture,” in Pye Lucian W. and Verba, eds., Political Culture and Political Development (Princeton 1965), 133.

44 Lipset, The First New Nation: The United States in Historical and Comparative Perspective (New York 1963), 292.

45 Dahl, 358.

46 McDaniel, The Danish Unicameral Parliament (unpubl. Ph.D. diss., University of California, Berkeley 1963), iv.

* This note represents an intermediate stage of a research project concerning political stability in democratic systems. An earlier and briefer discussion of die concept of consociational democracy, in die context of a critical analysis of the utility of typologies in comparative politics, appeared in the aumor's “Typologies of Democratic Systems,” Comparative Political Studies, I (April 1968), 3–44. The author is indebted to die Institute of International Studies, Berkeley, for financial support.

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World Politics
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