chapter  8
9 Pages

On the integrative effects of federalism and consociation

Federal restructuring and consociational arrangements are methods that have been resorted to and are often being recommended in prescriptive social science for managing inter-ethnic tensions within states. 1 Historically, neither federalism nor consociation emerged to tackle ethno-cultural confl ict. The original use of the former was to create larger defensive or offensive formations out of smaller culturally related units that were willing to co-operate. The latter originally served to balance groups opposed on religious and ideological issues within small European states. However, both techniques have been adjusted to address ethnic tensions. Ethno-federal restructuring refers to the introduction of constitutionally entrenched intermediate lawmaking authorities designed to represent ethnic minorities between the central government and the localities. Consociation is an anti-majoritarian mechanism that empowers minorities by allocating them proportional representation in government and equipping them with the power to veto policies that may adversely affect their communal interests. 2 According to Lijphart, 3 consociative and federative elements can be combined, as in the Belgian Constitution of 1993, but not necessarily: consociative politics can be practiced in unitary states, and federations can be majoritarian. 4

Literature yields contrasting opinions on the effects of both types of devolution on political integration. Some assert that they are disruptive of state integrity because they exacerbate or even create sectional discord, and others argue exactly to the contrary that federal and consociative measures save and improve states, re-integrating them on morally superior terms. This division has manifested itself most prominently in the interpretations of the Soviet dissolution, with one side arguing that the state fell apart because it was not really federal, and the other — because it was. I shall consider both of these propositions, with the larger aim being to see how justifi able it is to discriminate between empires versus federations and national states with respect of their capacities to produce inter-ethnic harmony as well as civic cohesion.