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Chapter 7

POLI 212 Chapter Notes - Chapter 7: Arend Lijphart, Consensus Democracy, Proportional Representation

Political Science
Course Code
POLI 212
Vincent Post

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Reading Notes Deorati Politial “ystes Lijphart
1) Arend Lijphart distinguishes between consensus and majoritarian systems.
Taken as a whole, what is the major different between consensus systems and
majoritarian systems? Which does Lijphart like better?
Two types of democracy:
Majortarian (Westminster) democracy: a legislature elected by a simple
majority of the voters govern, and voters throw the ruling party out if it
governs poorly. British system is the best example.
Second type is consensus democracy, involved far greater compromise
and significant minority rights.
Westminters and consensus democracies differ along two dimensions,
each of which has 5 elements
Consesus democracy is the application of consensus decision-making to the
process of legislation in a democracy. It is charactertized by a decision-making
structure which involved and takes into account as broad a range of opinions as
possible using Proportional Representation, as opposed to Majoritarian systems
(First Past the Post), where minority opinions can be potentially ignored by vote-
winning majorities.
Lijpharts Mai Arguet: Cosesus Deoray is Better:
Contrary to the popular wisdom that decisive, effective, majoritarian
leadership leads to better policy outcomes, Majoritarian democracies do
not outperform consensus democracies. On some indicators (e.g.
inflation), consensus democracies actually do significaly better and on
some others they do insignificantly better. Consensus democracies also
hae kider, getler traits: loer iareratios rates, less use of the
death penalty, better care for the environment, more foreign aid work,
and more welfare spending.
Special advantage in divided societies: Majoritarian democracy is often
ciritized for potentially leaving out 49.9% of the population out of the
policy process. In many societies, especially in socieities with deep ethnic,
linguistic, religious, or ideological cleavages these deep divisions can
preet rossoer otig, preetig today’s iority fro ever having a
realisti hage of eig toorro’s ajority. There is also a ulikely
orlap etee iority ad ajority iterests. Thus, the iority’s
permanent exclusion might lead to unrest of violence. Consensus
deoray is Lijphart’s istitutioal solution to this problem, allowing
democracy to function by incorporating minority rights and allwing
minority groups to influence politics. Though there might be less turnover
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in the legislature, governments will represent a broader swath of
Dimension 1:
Concentration of executive power versus executive power-sharing.
o Majoritarian executive = 1 party, bare-majority cabinet (Britain)
o Ideal-type consensual executive is a power sharing coalition
consisting of all the major parties in the legislature (Switzerland)
Executive dominance versus executive-legislative balance
o Cabinets that are durable tend to be much more powerful vis-à-
vis their legislature than less durable executives (Britain = 81,
Switzerland = 30)
Two-party versus multiparty system
o Effective number of parties = the number of parties weighted by
party size the mean effective number of parties, based on the
parties’ shares of legislative seats was 2.1 for Britain and 5.0 for
One dimensional versus multidimensional party system
o Majoritarian: two major parties differ from each other
programmatically on only one dimension: socio-economic policy
o The consensus model assumes differences among the major
parties not only on the left-right issue dimension but also on one
or more of the following: religious, cultural-ethic, urban-rural,
regime support, foreign policy, and post-materialistic dimensions
Plurality elections versus proportional representation
o Not all PR systems are equally proportional and not all plurality
systems are equally disproportional this variable is measured by
degree of disproportionality of the actua electoral outcomes
(deviation between the vote and seat shared of the two largest
parties in all elections) Britain = 6.2%, Switzerland = 1.5%
Dimensions 2:
Unitary and centralized versus federal and decentralized government:
o Federations tend to be more decentralized than unitary states
measure of the etral goeret’s share of total etral ad o-
central tax receipts (Britain = 87% and Switzerland = 41%)
Unicameralism versus strong bicameralism
o Strong bicameralisms = two houses roughly equal in power
(symmetrical) and elected by different methods (incongruent)
o Asymmetrical or congruent = intermediate cases between
unicameralism and strong bicameralisms
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