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Patterns of Democracy and Its Critics

Author(s): Nils-Christian Bormann

Journal: Living Reviews in Democracy
ISSN 1663-0165

Volume: 2;
Date: 2010;
Original page

Arend Lijphart's typology of democratic systems has been perceived as one of the major contributions to comparative political science in the last decades. His differentiation between consensus and majoritarian democracies has been widely adopted and expanded by other researchers. However, it has also been fiercely debated. This review summarizes the discussion by asking how useful Lijphart's typology of consensus and majoritarian systems is as a typology of democratic systems. It finds that the typology is a useful tool to categorize established democracies but is incapable of capturing patterns beyond the scope of the original sample. This is due to Lijphart's inductive approach that cannot sever the intricate connection between culture and institutions built into the typology. Moreover, this connection makes it difficult to predict differences in policy performance.
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