Conclusion: Towards Consolidation?

  • Graeme Gill


The course of democratic transition, ideally, gives way to the third stage in the process, democratic consolidation. Although there have been differing conceptions of consolidation depending upon what analysts saw to be its specific purpose, to prevent the decay or erosion back to authoritarian rule or to build a qualitatively better democratic system,1 the basic understanding of what consolidation is about has been widely agreed. The notion of consolidation refers to the embedding of democratic procedures into the infrastructure as a whole so that that system is secure and is generally seen as the appropriate way of organizing political life. In the words of two scholars, a consolidated democracy is ‘a regime that meets all the procedural criteria of democracy and also in which all politically significant groups accept established political institutions and adhere to democratic rules of the game.’2 A regime is therefore said to be consolidated when it is seen as ‘the only game in town’,3 when no alternative methods of organizing politics are seen as appropriate replacements of the democratic process. This does not mean that, once consolidated, a democracy will remain stable and firmly in place for ever. Like any regime, a consolidated democracy can break down, but it should be more immune from that process than an unconsolidated democracy would be.


Civil Society Political Actor Political Life Democratic System Democratic Transition 
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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    For a discussion of this, see Andreas Schedler, ‘What is Democratic Consolidation?’, The Journal of Democracy 9, 2, 1988, pp. 91–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    John Higley and Richard Gunther (eds.), Elites and Democratic Consolidation in Latin America and Eastern Europe (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1992) p. 3.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Juan J. Linz, ‘Transitions to Democracy’, The Washington Quarterly 13, 3, Summer 1990, p. 156. Also see Richard Gunther, P. Nikiforos Diamandouros and Hans-Jurgen Puhle (eds.), The Politics of Democratic Consolidation. Southern Europe in Comparative Perspective (Baltimore, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995), pp. 5–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Samuel P. Huntington, The Third Wave. Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century (Norman, University of Oklahoma Press, 1991), p. 267.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Although, as Guillermo O’Donnell points out, this has focused on formal rules and ignored the importance of informal rules. Guillermo O’Donnell, ‘Illusions About Consolidation’, Journal of Democracy 7, 2, April 1996, pp. 34–51. This provoked comment and a response, Journal of Democracy 7, 4, October 1996, pp. 150–168. For an alternative view of consolidation, which does take in broader issues, see Adrian Leftwich, ‘From Democratization to Democratic Consolidation’, David Potter, David Goldblatt, Margaret Kiloh and Paul Lewis (eds.), Democratization (Cambridge, Polity Press, 1997), pp. 524–532.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Juan Linz, ‘The Perils of Presidentialism’, The Journal of Democracy 1, 1, Winter 1990, pp. 51–69.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    For some interventions in this debate, see Arend Lijphart (ed.), Parliamentary versus Presidential Government (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1992); Juan J. Linz and Arturo Valenzuela (eds.), The Failure of Presidential Democracy: Comparative Perspectives (Baltimore, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994); M. Shugart and J. Carey, Presidents and Assemblies: Constitutional Design and Electoral Dynamics (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1992); Alfred Stepan and Cindy Skach, ‘Constitutional Frameworks and Democratic Consolidation: Parliamentarianism and Presidentialism’, World Politics 46, 1, October 1993, pp. 1–22; Scott Mainwaring, ‘Presidentialism, Multipartism, and Democracy: The Difficult Combination’, Comparative Political Studies 26, 2, 1993, pp. 198–228; Arend Lijphart, ‘Constitutional Choices for New Democracies’, Larry Diamond and Marc F. Plattner (eds.), The Global Resurgence of Democracy (Baltimore, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993); Arend Lijphart and Carlos H. Waisman (eds.), Institutional Design in New Democracies. Eastern Europe and Latin America (Boulder, Westview Press, 1996).Google Scholar
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    For example, Andre Blais and Stephane Dion, ‘Electoral Systems and the Consolidation of Democracies’, Diane Ethier (ed.), Democratic Transition and Consolidation in Southern Europe, Latin America and Southeast Asia (London, Macmillan, 1990).Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    For example, Alex MacLeod, ‘The Parties and Consolidation of Democracy in Portugal: The Emergence of a Dominant Two-Party System’, Ethier; Renato R. Boschi, ‘Social Movements, Party Systems and Democratic Consolidation: Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina’, Ethier; Scott Mainwaring and Timothy R. Scully (eds.), Building Democratic Institutions. Party Systems in Latin America (Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1995) Geoffrey Pridham and Paul G. Lewis (eds.), Stabilising Fragile Democracies. Comparing New Party Systems in Southern and Eastern Europe (London, Routledge, 1996).Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    For an explicit case, see Juan Linz and Alfred Stepan, ‘Political Crafting of Democratic Consolidation or Destruction: Europe and South American Comparisons’, Robert A. Pastor (ed.), Democracy in the Americas. Stopping the Pendulum (New York, Holmes and Meier, 1989).Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    David Collier and Steven Levitsky, ‘Democracy with Adjectives: Conceptual Innovation in Comparative Research’, World Politics 49, 3, April 1997, pp. 430–451. Also see J. Samuel Valenzuela, ‘Democratic Consolidation in Post-Transitional Settings: Notion, Process and Facilitating Conditions’, Scott Mainwaring, Guillermo O’Donnell and J. Samuel Valenzuela (eds.), Issues in Democratic Consolidation: The New South American Democracies in Comparative Perspective (Notre Dame, University of Notre Dame Press, 1992), pp. 62–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    For the argument that in discussing consolidation, the definition of democracy should be related to minimal conditions because no democracy can ever achieve the ideal that is associated with maximalist conditions, see Valenzuela, pp. 59–60.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Juan J. Linz and Alfred Stepan, Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation. Southern Europe, South America, and Post-Communist Europe (Baltimore, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), pp. 5–6.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Linz and Stepan, Problems..., p. 5.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Larry Diamond, ‘Introduction: In Search of Consolidation’, Larry Diamond, Marc F. Plattner, Yun-han Chu and Hung-mao Tien (eds.), Consolidating the Third Wave Democracies. Themes and Perspectives (Baltimore, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997), p. xix.Google Scholar
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    For example, Gabriel A. Almond and Sidney Verba, The Civic Culture: Political Attitudes and Democracy in Five Nations (Boston, Little Brown and Co., 1965); Robert A. Dahl, Polyarchy: Participation and Opposition (New Haven, Yale University Press, 1971), pp. 124–162; Roland Pennock, Democratic Political Theory (Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1979); Larry Diamond (ed.), Political Culture and Democracy in Developing Countries (Boulder, Lynne Rienner, 1993).Google Scholar
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    For example, Larry Diamond, ‘Toward Democratic Consolidation’, Journal of Democracy 5, 3, July 1994, pp. 4–17; and Diamond, ‘Introduction...’, pp. xxx-xxxii.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Adam Przeworski, Michael Alvarez, Jose Antonio Cheibub and Fernando Limongi, ‘What Makes Democracies Endure?’, Journal of Democracy 7, 1, January 1996, pp. 39–55. As well as the economic factors noted above, the authors identified a democratic structure, favourable international climate, and parliamentary institutions.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© Graeme Gill 2000

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  • Graeme Gill

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