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Patterns of Democracy: Government Forms and Performance in Thirty-six Countries [Paperback]

Arend Lijphart
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Sep 1999
In this updated and expanded edition of his highly acclaimed book Democracies, Arend Lijphart offers a broader and deeper analysis of worldwide democratic institutions than ever before. Examining thirty-six democracies during the half-century from 1945 to 1996, Lijphart arrives at important -- and unexpected -- conclusions about what type of democracy works best. While conventional wisdom suggests that majoritarian democracies like those in the United States and Great Britain are superior to consensual systems like those in Switzerland and Israel, Lijphart shows this is not so. In fact, consensual systems stimulate economic growth, control inflation and unemployment, and limit budget deficits just as well as majoritarian democracies do. And, consensus democracies clearly outperform majoritarian systems on measures of political equality, women's representation, citizen participation in elections, and proximity between government policies and voter preferences.Systematically comparing cabinets, legislatures, parties, election systems, supreme courts, and -- for the first time in this volume -- interest groups and central banks, Lijphart demonstrates that the more consensual a democracy, the "kinder and gentler" it is when addressing welfare, environmental, criminal justice, and foreign aid issues. These findings are of far-reaching import not only for countries designing their first democratic constitutions but also for established democracies seeking practical approaches to reform.


Product details

  • Paperback: 362 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (1 Sep 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300078935
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300078930
  • Product Dimensions: 2.6 x 14.6 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 321,804 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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There are many ways in which, in principle, a democracy can be organized and run; in practice, too, modern democracies exhibit a variety of formal governmental institutions, like legislatures and courts, as well as political party and interest group systems. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good book if your very keen 10 Dec 2008
Format:Paperback
Overall a useful book, i did actually absorb a lot of the infoRmation. Especially as it was clearly written, focuses a lot of political science and mostly analyses the different democracies instead of telling you about them.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wish I held on to it 8 Mar 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This was a required text for first year at Uni but It took me three years to realise it would have been useful now as, although quite general, does provide a good background and is easy to understand.
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Amazon.com: 3.5 out of 5 stars  12 reviews
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Reading for Comparative Political Studies 2 Mar 2002
By "bostrom1302" - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This revision of Lijphart's Classic 'Democracies' is a first-rate survey of 36 democracies, which focuses on the relationships between a number of political variables. One of the most striking features of the book is the manner in which Lijphart divides the book into 10 areas of inquiry (e.g. electoral systems, party formations, executive power, etc.), devoting one chapter per area. He reviews the theory regarding the area of interest, while also attempting to use applied examples from the 36 countries to illustrate that theory. He then tries to construct rough numerical indices to outline more formally the degree and extent to which qualitative differences exist. This helps in conceptualizing how (dis)similar two countries are with respect to one another.
The other outstanding aspect of the book is that by the end, the reader is broadly familiar with the structure of all 36 democracies. You walk away understanding how diverse the party formations of federal Germany are, or how UK Commonwealths tend to mirror their colonial power in terms of parliamentary power, centralisation of power, and so forth.
Because of its lucid and and pragmatic structure, as well as its strong comparative approach, I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning more about what features differentiate democracies and why France is or is not similar to Japan or Paupa New Guinea--an excellent study by a classic thinker!
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Testing Institutional Performance 18 Nov 2005
By Matthew P. Arsenault - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Lijphart seeks to test which type of democratic institutions - consensus or majoritarian - performs most effectively. He tests the performance of these institutions through a statistical analysis of their relative efficiency in three broad fields: macroeconomic management, control of violence, and what he terms the "kinder and gentler" qualities of democracy (293). However, before discussing the results of Lijphart's study, it is necessary to explore what distinguishes the institutions of majoritarian and consensus systems.

Lijphart distinguishes between these two types of democracy by illustrating ten institutional differences which divide the typologies. For clarity, the author divides these ten differences into two distinct dimensions: executives-parties, and federal-unitary. The executives-parties dimension addresses "the arrangement of executive power, the party and electoral systems, and interest groups" (3). The federal-unitary dimension illustrates differences in institutional structure of a federated versus unitary government.

According to the executives-parties dimension, the majoritarian system, or Westminster model, is found to have a two party system and a strong one-party executive and cabinet. Often the executive is more powerful than his or her legislative counterparts. Furthermore, a majoritarian system often uses a single member district electoral system which can lead to disproportional representation, and has a highly competitive pluralist interest group system. Lijphart cites Britain and pre-1996 New Zealand as majoritarian systems.

Lijphart's consensus democracy varies institutionally from the Westminster model. First, under the majoritarian model, the executive office is often composed of a multi-party power-sharing cabinet or coalition. In addition, power-sharing exists between the executive branch and the legislature the electoral system often promotes proportional representation. Lastly, unlike the highly competitive special interest group system of the Westminster model, a consensus democracy promotes a system of interest group compromise (4). Lijphart uses Switzerland and Germany as examples of consensus democracy.

According to the federated-unitary dimension, the Westminster system has a strong, centralized government and a unicameral legislature. In addition, most majoritarian systems possess a very flexible constitution that can readily be amended or changed. Furthermore, in many majoritarian systems, the legislature holds the final word in the constitutionality of legislation, and as such, majoritarian systems do not have a strong system of judicial review.

The consensus model, on the other hand, often has a decentralized government, and can be a federated system. Often the legislature is divided into two houses. In addition, the constitution is often rigid, making change difficult. Lastly, the consensus system often has a strong institution of judicial review to monitor the legality of legislation.

To test the effectiveness of consensus and majoritarian systems, Lijphart compares the performance of the two democracies on three main categories: macroeconomic management, levels of political violence, and the "kinder, gentler" aspects of democracy. Lijphart's hypothesis "is that consensus democracy produces better results - but without the expectation that the differences will be very strong and significant" (261).

When exploring the effectiveness of the two democracies in macroeconomic management, the author operationalizes a number of variables. For the sake of brevity, I will condense the findings into six categories: economic growth, inflation rates, unemployment, strike activity, budget deficits, and freedom index. Lijphart tests the performance of the democracies by using both the executives-parties dimension and federated-unitary dimensions.

In the case of economic growth using the executives-parties dimension, there was little difference between majoritarian and consensus democracy. There was a weak negative relationship between consensus democracy and economic but the findings were not statistically significant. This implies that the difference between consensus and majoritarian democracies in regards to economic development is negligible. In regards to inflation, Lijphart finds that consensus democracies have a slightly lower rate of inflation than majoritarian systems. Consensus also performs slightly better than the majoritarian model in regards to unemployment, but again, the differences are slight.

Interestingly, Lijphart found a massive relationship between strike activity and consensus democracy. According to the regression coefficient, levels of strike activity would have been substantially lower in consensus systems than in majoritarian. However, upon further analysis the relationships are not statistically significant and as Lijphart illustrates, the large difference is a result of "big exceptions to the tendency of consensus countries to be less strike-prone than majoritarian democracies" (269). Lastly, Lijphart explores the performance of consensus democracies on budget deficits and economic freedom. Again, the author finds the differences negligible. When using the federated-unitary dimension, Lijphart's finding are similar except when looking at the inflation variable. When comparing consensus democracy on federal-unitary dimension on inflation, Lijphart discovers that a strong negative relationship exists, the relationship is statistically significant, and there is an acceptable t-value. The author explains this relationship by citing that in a consensus democracy the central bank independence. Lijphart writes, "the most important reason why central banks are made strong and independent is to give them the tools to control inflation" (273).

In conclusion, the author writes, "the evidence with regard to economic growth and economic freedom is mixed, but with regard to all of the other indicators of economic performance, the consensus democracies have a slightly better record and a significantly better record as far as inflation is concerned" (270).

The results regarding the performance of consensus and majoritarian democracies in controlling political violence are also rather vague. Statistically, the consensus system is slightly violent than the majoritarian system. However, Lijphart contends that the significance of the relationship declines when other variables are controlled and outlying observations are removed. Ultimately, Lijphart contends that the statistics show "at least a slightly better performance of the consensus democracies" (271).

The last group of variables that Lijphart addresses is what he terms the "kinder, gentler" aspects of democracy. The author contends that consensus systems are more apt to be "kinder and gentler" than their majoritarian counterparts. Lijphart writes, "Consensus democracies demonstrate these kinder and gentler qualities in the following ways: they are more likely to be welfare states; they have a better record with regard to the protection of the environment; they put fewer people in prison, and are less likely use the death penalty; and the consensus democracies in the developed world are more generous with their economic assistance to the developing nations" (275-6).

Lijphart measures the effectiveness of consensus intuitions by measuring a number of variables: women's representation, political equality, electoral participation, satisfaction with democracy, government-voter proximity, and accountability and corruption. Statistically, Lijphart's findings when comparing the performance of consensus and majoritarian democracies in regards to the "kinder and gentler" qualities are much more revealing. Lijphart finds that consensus democracy "makes a big difference with regard to almost all of the indicators of democratic quality and with regard to all of the kinder and gentler qualities" (300).

To conclude, Lijphart has found that the institutions of consensus democracies perform slightly better than majoritarian institutions in both macroeconomic management and in the prevention of political violence. However, the differences are slim and arguably irrelevant. But, Lijphart did discover that when looking at the "kinder, gentler" aspects of democracy, such as women's rights, incarceration rates and other, consensus democracy performed substantially better.
12 of 17 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not nearly what the original was 29 Jan 2004
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Unfortunately not everything gets better with time. The original 1984 version of this book was stellar. An excellent introduction to comparative politics. Easily accessible to undergraduates and a useful reference for early graduates. Unfortunately the new book adds nothing to the original insights and uses surprisingly poor statistical methodology to force points when the data are simply not supportive. At times the author even admits to "arbitrarily selecting thresholds." As a result of the alarmingly poor methodology employed I can no longer use this text as a key componant of my undergraduate comparative politics courses. For graduates I would use it only as an example of what not to do.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Patterns of a Dated Democracy? 9 May 2012
By Michael Griswold - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Arend Lijphart's "Patterns of Democracy" has become a standardized text within the comparative politics subfield, but I think the question needs to be asked "Given all the divergence in regime type that sprouted with the downfall of the Soviet Union, is the pure Westminster system still a viable starting point for analyzing the points of democratic governance. There's such a regime diversity these days that even regimes of a Westminster character have mutated into systems with two or three different characters. Its' still relevant information particularly when differentiating between presidential and prime ministerial type systems, cabinets, electoral systems etc. But I have to question whether the mixing of systemic elements has left Patterns of Democracy, a dated treatment of a system that has drastically changed.
4.0 out of 5 stars Politics 29 April 2014
By Caleb Ahern - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
We all need knowledge but knowledge that continues to benefit mankind is indispensable. I'm glad I purchased this study book
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