Consensual politics and multiparty systems
Title: Consensual politics and multiparty systems
Author: BLONDEL, Jean
Citation: Australian Journal of Political Science, 1995, 30, pp. 7-26
This paper explores the occurrence of consensual policy making and its association with multi-party arrangements in postwar western Europe. It reviews and categorises the experience of 19 countries. The paper first operationalises the definition of consensus, distinguishing between actively-sought and passively-occurring states. It then reviews the association between this outcome and the occurrence of multi-party arrangements. There is in fact very little relationship between degrees of consensus and multi-party political structures. So far as the dynamics of consensus are concerned, this is found to be historically associated with strong religious cleavages or shared historical experience. As these stimuli fade, so consensualism appears to diminish. It is not associated with durable economic strategies and states where high levels of consensualism have prevailed and have been especially prone to clientalism and patronage. The paper concludes that if consistency in economic policy is the goal, arrangements that remove key economic decisions from political influence (as occurs with the German Bundesbank) may be the best model.
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