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Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies$
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Ian O'Flynn

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780748621446

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748621446.001.0001

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Civil Society and Political Institutions

Civil Society and Political Institutions

(p.141) Chapter 7 Civil Society and Political Institutions
Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies

Ian O'flynn

Edinburgh University Press

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

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