Seeking Stability Amid Deep Division: Consociationalism and Centripetalism in Comparative Perspective
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For the design of power-sharing practices in deeply divided places, there are two main macro-political strategies: consociationalism, developed and defended by Arend Lijphart, and centripetalism, associated with the work of Donald L. Horowitz. In this thesis, I consider the academic debate between advocates of the two approaches and consider the extent to which either model represents a successful tool of ethnic conflict management. Two broad questions are asked: can centripetalism promote political stability in deeply divided places? Can consociationalism? I address these questions by engaging a comparative case analysis of six deeply divided places, three of which have adopted centripetal institutions (Fiji, Sri Lanka, and Nigeria’s Second Republic) and three of which have adopted consociational institutions (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burundi, and Northern Ireland). I present three central arguments in the thesis. First, centripetalism should not be recommended as a strategy of conflict management in deeply divided places. Its track record in such places reveals serious weaknesses. Indeed, it has tended to promote instability and exacerbate division rather than promote moderation. Second, consociationalism is better able to promote stability in deeply divided places. Third, consociationalism’s prospects of promoting stability are further enhanced when it is implemented in a revised and expanded form, labelled here as “comprehensive consociation.” This type of power-sharing addresses issues that go beyond concern with just political institutions, such as security sector reform, property restitution, and the return of refugees. These are the type of issues that are most likely to promote political instability if left unresolved. Failure to deal with such issues, I argue, is likely to make it more difficult for elites to agree to share power, or to maintain such arrangements.