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What Politicians Can Teach Academics: ‘Real’ Politics, Consociationalism and the Northern Ireland Conflict

  • Paul Dixon
Chapter
Part of the International Political Theory book series (IPoT)

Abstract

Consociationalism has been an influential theory on the academic study of the Northern Ireland peace process. This chapter contrasts the ‘classic’ consociationalism of Arend Lijphart with the ‘revisionist’ consociationalism of John McGarry and Brendan O’Leary. It is argued that as consociationalism has become revised to capture the dynamism of the Northern Ireland conflict the theoretical coherence of ‘classic’ consociationalism has deteriorated so that its definition is vague and ambiguous. Consociationalism cannot explain the success of the peace process because its description of the conflict was inaccurate and its prescriptions, based on that analysis, were not implemented. There is little or no evidence that consociationalism was influential on the negotiators of the Belfast or St Andrews Agreement. This chapter argues that consociationalism is too abstract and generalised from the real world to be a useful guide to peace making.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul Dixon
    • 1
  1. 1.Birkbeck College, University of LondonLondonUK

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