العنوان هنا
Studies 08 March, 2018

On the Development of the Concept of Consociational Democracy

and its Adequacy for Resolving Sectarian Conflicts: Northern Ireland and Lebanon as Case Studies

Azmi Bishara

Azmi Bishara is the General Director of the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies (ACRPS). He is also the Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies. A prominent Arab writer and scholar, Bishara has published numerous books and academic papers in political thought, social theory, and philosophy, in addition to several literary works, including: Civil Society: A Critical Study (1996); On the Arab Question: An Introduction to an Arab Democratic Statement (2007); Religion and Secularism in Historical Context (3 volumes 2011-2013); On Revolution and Susceptibility to Revolution (2012); The Army and Political Power in the Arab Context: Theoretical Problems (2017); Essay on Freedom (2016); Sect, Sectarianism, and Imagined Sects (2017); What is Salafism? (2018); The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Daesh): A General Framework and Critical Contribution to Understanding the Phenomenon (2018); What is Populism? (2019) and Democratic Transition and its Problems: Theoretical Lessons from Arab Experiences (2020). Some of these works have become key references within their respective field.

As part of a wider project chronicling, documenting, and analyzing the Arab revolutions of 2011, Bishara has also published three key volumes: The Glorious Tunisian Revolution (2011); Syria's Via Dolorosa to Freedom: An Attempt at Contemporary History (2013) and The Great Egyptian Revolution (in two volumes) (2014). Each book deals with the revolution’s background, path, and different stages. In their narration and detail of the revolutions’ daily events, these volumes constitute a key reference in what is known as contemporary history along with an analytical component that interlinks the social, economic and political contexts of each revolution.

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 or on the link above. This paper was originally published in the January, 2018 edition of  Siyasat Arabiya, the ACRPS' journal devoted to political science and strategic studies.

Latest Publications