Book review – Party Elites in Divided Societies (Kris DESCHOWER)

19990927 Party Elites

A tour des forces study of consociational democracy

This is quite a comprehensive comparative study of those countries acclaimed to be practising consociational democracies. The prose is highly academic (in tradition of Routledge), and is not recommended for those without a sound understanding of the consociational model. For this, Lijphart’s Democracy in Plural Societies (1977) is a genuine starting point.

Party Elites is a strong book. The theoretical framework and case studies are solid. My study topic is Northern Ireland politics, and the chapters on Belgium and Israel particularly interest me. Deschouwer makes an important point that the development of working federalism is no mean feat. ‘Classic consociationalism’ argues for federal structures, but achieving them can be quite a challenge with the claims of segmental autonomy. I argue that ‘classic consociationalism’ is more consistent with *con*federalism, and federalism is more representative of what is termed ‘integrative power-sharing’, as defined by Timothy Sisk, Power Sharing and International Mediation in Ethnic Conflicts (1996), informed by Donald Horowitz, Ethnic Groups in Conflict (1985). The integrative model does not juxtapose opposing models of power-sharing, only different emphasises, strengths, and weaknesses.

Overall, however, Party Elites is a tour des forces on consociational democracy; just consider other possible models of power-sharing!

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