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In Search of Political Stability

In Search of Political Stability

Edmund A. Aunger
Copyright Date: 1981
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    In Search of Political Stability
    Book Description:

    Political scientists have often assumed that communities severely divided by cleavages such as religion and ethnicity will also be unstable. The civil strife experienced by Northern Ireland seems to confirm this assumption. Yet other communities, no less divided than Northern Ireland, have maintained political stability in spite of serious tensions created by religious and ethnic differences. The Canadian province of New Brunswick is an example of such a community. In Search of Political Stability offers a detailed comparison of society and politics in New Brunswick and Northern Ireland. It reveals the fragmented nature of the two communities by comparing the distinctive cultures and separate social institutions of the major blocs, whether English or French, Protestant or Catholic. It documents the contrasting experiences of stability and instability by assessing the durability of each community's political institutions, the legitimacy and efficacy of their governments, and the prevalence or absence of civil strife. The search for the causes of stability and instability focuses on the nature of the social conflicts and the behaviour of the political elites. In New Brunswick major conflicts have cut across the division between the English and French blocs. In Northern Ireland conflicts have tended to reinforce the division between the Protestant and Catholic blocs. The effects of these differing patterns are consistent with the theory of crosscutting cleavages. An examination of the elite political cultures, including such specific elements as campaign strategies, cabinet formation, and civil service composition, shows a pattern of elite cooperation in New Brunswick and elite confrontation in Northern Ireland. These results are broadly consistent with Lijphart's theory of consociational democracy, although significant revisions are made to this theory.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-8067-1
    Subjects: Political Science
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Figures (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Acknowledgements (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. 1. Introduction: Fragmentation and Instability (pp. 1-14)

    The communities of New Brunswick and Northern Ireland are characterized by striking, yet paradoxical, similarities.¹ Both are divided along a dominant cleavage into separate and self-contained segments. In New Brunswick there is a British-origin majority and a French minority; in Northern Ireland there is a British-origin majority (the “Protestants”) and an Irish minority (the “Catholics”). Each of these segments has a separate identity with its own political symbols, flags, anthems, and heroes. There is only intermittent contact across the ethnic divide at the mass level; social structures are relatively segmented and residential patterns, segregated. Each segment within the community possesses...

  6. 2. Two Fragmented Communities (pp. 15-38)

    Both New Brunswick and Northern Ireland share the two characteristics which define a fragmented community. First, both are divided into separate subcultures based on differing cultural values. They thus conform to Almond and Powell’s (1966) description of fragmentation as “a fundamental division in the values of different groups in the society” (p. 110). Second, and most important, each of these subcultures contains its own network of interconnected social organizations. That is, there are schools, leisure groups, newspapers, and political parties particular to each subculture. In operational terms, this is the most salient characteristic of a fragmented community. When Almond (1956)...

  7. 3. Stability and Instability (pp. 39-62)

    Political stability refers to the ability of a system’s political institutions to endure without abrupt modification. Eckstein (1966), for example, describes a stable democracy as one “which has demonstrated considerable staying power, a capacity to endure, without great or frequent changes in pattern” (p. 227). Lijphart (1968b) similarly defines stability as “the system’s ability to survive intact” (p. 8). These conclusions do not imply that the political system is static but rather that it is able to adapt to changes in its environment without abruptly losing its essential form. There is thus a continuity over time in the major institutions...

  8. 4. The Ethnic and Religious Cleavages (pp. 63-82)

    Historically, the process of nation-building gives rise to conflict along two primary lines of cleavage (Lipset and Rokkan, 1967, p. 14). First, conflict occurs along an ethnic cleavage as the dominant nationbuilding culture attempts to assimilate localized counter-cultures within its territorial boundaries. The attempt by the dominant culture to impose a standard language, a uniform law, and a central administration inevitably meets with resistance from these local cultures. Second, conflict occurs along a religious cleavage as the nation-state centralizes its control and expands its power, threatening the traditional privileges of the church. The attempts of the state to gain jurisdiction...

  9. 5. The Class Cleavage (pp. 83-108)

    Beginning in the sixteenth century, the process of nation-building — or what Lipset and Rokkan (1967) describe as thenationalrevolution — brought conflict along both the ethnic and the religious cleavages into prominence. Much later, in the nineteenth century, theindustrialrevolution produced a further critical cleavage—the class cleavage — characterized first by conflict between the traditional landed interests and the new industrial entrepreneurs, and then subsequently by conflict between the industrial owners and their hired workers. If the conflicts inspired by the national revolution generally took place along a territorial axis, those originating with the industrial revolution tended to occur...

  10. 6. The Political Elites: Coalescence and Competition (pp. 109-134)

    The major conclusion of Liiphart’s (1968a) study of the Netherlands was that “overarching cooperation at the elite level can be a substitute for crosscutting affiliations at the mass level” (p. 200). Lijphart observed that the Netherlands, although severely fragmented, has nevertheless enjoyed a long history of political stability, and attributes this to the cooperative behaviour of the political elites. This cooperative behaviour covers a wide variety of political strategies and institutional arrangements, but its most important defining characteristic is “coalescence.” Coalescence refers to the establishment of a governing coalition that includes the political leaders of the principal blocs in the...

  11. 7. Elite Political Culture: Cooperation and Confrontation (pp. 135-160)

    The political process in a homogeneous community has been aptly described by Almond (1956) as a game where the outcome is in doubt but “the stakes are not too high.” Since there is a high degree of consensus in the community, the triumph of one party rather than another is unlikely to result in far-reaching change. Thus, while confrontation between opposing players may add to the excitement, it is rarely threatening: victory and defeat can be accepted with equal equanimity. The political process in a fragmented community, however, is a much more serious matter, fraught with danger. Because of the...

  12. 8. Conditions Conductive to Cooperative Elite Behaviour (pp. 161-182)

    The contrasting behaviour of the political elites in New Brunswick and Northern Ireland provides considerable insight into the origins of political instability in a fragmented community. Most notably, it suggests a close link between confrontation and instability, and between cooperation and stability. But it also raises a new question: why is it that the elites in New Brunswick are cooperative, while those in Northern Ireland are confrontative? Since elite behaviour has been crucial to the stability (or instability) of the communities, it is important that the conditions that have influenced this behaviour be defined.

    One such condition has been the...

  13. 9. Conclusion (pp. 183-194)

    The advantages of the methodological approach which Eckstein (1966) has described as the “theoretical case study” are that it provides a means of testing and refining a theoretical model, and that it illuminates specific empirical cases. Its application to this study thus has two benefits. First, it provides insight into the theory of political stability. Second, it contributes to our understanding of New Brunswick and Northern Ireland.

    The comparison of two communities is not in itself a conclusive test of a political theory, but it does permit the refinement of some of the principal variables. In the cases of New...

  14. Appendix A The National Election Study and the Northern Ireland Loyalty Survey (pp. 195-196)
  15. Appendix B Occupational Stratification in New Brunswick and Northern Ireland (pp. 197-200)
  16. References (pp. 201-214)
  17. Index (pp. 215-224)