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Political Science
POLI 212
Hudson Meadwell

LijphartArend Lijpharts Democratic Political Systems Types Cases Causes and Consequences focuses on the 22 cases of longterm democracy since the end of WW2 There are two dimensions majoritarian and consensustype democracy Majoritarian democracies are democracies where the majority party receives governmental power and Consensusbased democracies take in the diversity of populations to ensure that minorities whether ethnic or religious etc They try to prevent the tyranny of the majority The first dimension is based on 5 characteristics that define the party system electoral system and government coalitions etc Depending on these characteristics a states democracy will be either majority or consensusbased The first dimensions characteristics This is the Insitutions guy 1 Concentration of executive power vs executive power sharing The typically majority executive is a oneparty majority cabinet whereas the consensual executive is a powersharing coalition consisting of all the major powers in the legislature2 Executive dominance vs executivelegislative balance Majoritytype democracies concentrate more power in the executive branch whereas consensustypes share power between executive and legislative3 Twoparty vs multiparty system Almost all democracies have numerous parties involved in the political process However in majoritytype systems legislative seats will most often be shared by only two parties where consensustypes enjoy a legislative branch shared by many parties 4 Onedimension vs multidimensional party system In the majority model the two major political parties platforms differ from each other on only one dimension socioeconomic policy The consensus model assumes differences among the major parties not only on the leftright economic dimension but on religious culturalethnic urbanrural regime support foreign policy dimensions 5 Plurality elections vs proportional representation The second dimension of analysis is based on three institutional factors related to constitutions and state structure1 Unitary and centralized vs federal and decentralized governments Majority types tend to be more centralized whereas consensus based regimes are more decentralized 2 Unicameralism vs bicameralism This dimension is related to legislative chamber strength Strong bicameralism more common in consensusbased governments features a legislative branch in which the two houses are roughly equal in power and are elected via different methods eg United States Unicameralism features two chambers that are asymmetrical in power Canada or congruent elected by the same methods It is a feature more common in majoritytype states 3 Unwritten vs written and rigid constitutions The majoritytype democracies feature more unwritten constitutional rules than consensusbased democracies Rigid constitutions that are difficult to amend can include motions on the proportion of different religious groups present to form a government What causes the establishment of different types of democracy 1 Pluralism There is a clear relationship between the degree of plurality and their type of regime Plural and semiplural societies such as Austria Belgium Israel Luxemburg the Netherlands Switzerland Canada United States France Finland etc contain numerous elements of consensustype regimes While relatively homogenous societies such as New Zealand Iceland Denmark etc will more lean towards majoritytype democracies2 Population size Countries featuring larger populations are often more divided than smaller countries therefore large populations 10 million or more tend to establish consensusstyle democracies whereas smaller countries establish majority democracies3 There is a strong AngloAmerican influence in regards to the first dimension of analysisConsequences Democratic Stability and Quality As far as democratic quality is concerned the conventional argument is that a twoparty system characteristic of majoritarianism is more democratic than the multiparty system because it gives the voters the opportunity to choose the government they want and to hold it strictly accountable for its actions On the other hand since we can define democracy as government by and for the people majority rule seems less democratic than consensus democracy because it excludes the losing party from participating in government Lijphart concludes with the following assumptions 1 As far as system stability is concerned consensus democracy is superior to majoritarian for plural societies 2 The democratic quality of consensus democracy is superior insofar as its first dimension of analysis is concerned when compared with the same dimension of majoritarian democracy Consociationalism vs Consensus DemocracyFocus on the minority veto The first majoritarian or Westminster democracy is what most people immediate think of when they think of democracy A legislature elected by a simple majority of the voters governs and voters throw the ruling party out if it governs poorly Great Britian presents the best example of this type of democracy hence the term Westminster The second type of democracy consensus democracy involves far greater compromise and significant minority rights Westminster and consensus democracies differ along two dimensions each of which has five elements read on for details Lijphart argues that consensus democracy is better The Two Dimensions of Democracy Consensus and Westminster democracies differ along two dimensions each of which has five criteria Lijpharts earlier book Democracies used factor analysis to show that these ten variables do actually load onto two distinct dimensions In the list below I write the majoritarian characteristic first followed by the consensus characteristic Each bullet is discussed in greater detail below Executiveparties dimension In effect how easy is it for a single party to take complete control of the government 1 concentration of executive power in singleparty majority MWC cabinets versus executive powersharing in broad not MWC multiparty coalitions MWC means minimal winning coalition is the cabinet just barely large enough to control a parliamentary majority 51 or does the cabinet include more parties than it has to 2 the executive president or cabinetprime minister is dominant over the legislature vs a legislativeexecutive balance of power 3 twoparty vs multiparty system This is partly a function of electoral rules see Cox 1997 4 pluralistic firstpastthepost electoral rules which lead to disproportionate results vs proportional representation PR 5 pluralist ie atomistic interest groups vs corporatist interest group systems aimed at compromise and concertation Federalunitary dimension In effect once your party controls the government how much can you change policy Are there mechanisms to preserve the minoritys voicerights 1 unitary vs federaldecentralized structure 2 unicameral vs bicameral legislature with two equally strong but differently constituted houses 3 flexible easily amended or nonexistent constitutions vs rigid supermajorityamended constitutions 4 legislatures determine constitutionality of own legislation vs judicial review of constitutionality by an independent court 5 executive control of central bank vs central bank independence Examples of Each Type
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