chapter  2
25 Pages

Lebanon’s Sectarian System

Political sectarianism, also known as confessionalism or communalism, is the overarching structure that establishes the distribution of parliamentary power and, to a large extent, politico-economic authority, in the country through formal and informal or intra-communal mechanisms. This chapter concerns how the Lebanese political system distributes power and resources according to sect and how sects internally negotiate the distribution of these resources. It demonstrates how shifts in structure transform changes in citizen-community-state relations. In Kamal Salibi's A House of Many Mansions, he presents conflicts over the narratives of Lebanese historicity as central to the actual, physical and material conflicts between Lebanese communities. In 1841, the Ottoman Governor of Beirut created an institution called The Council for the Mountain, a multi-sectarian body consisting of leaders from many Lebanese sects whose purpose was to discuss the tax system. The Lebanese political system contains a major structural flaw that prohibits strong cross-communal or national authority.