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Democratic Values and Power Sharing

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Ian O'FlynnORCiD


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When groups are engaged in violent conflict, they can measure progress in terms of territory gained or lost. But when they have already decided to share power within a democratic framework, progress can be much more difficult to measure. It can be more difficult to measure because the values and standards by which we might assess that progress—values like equality, freedom, inclusion and so forth—are often vaguely defined and badly understood. One reason why democratic values sometimes prove so problematic is how to choose from the many different values to which we might conceivably appeal. Accordingly, if democratic values really are to provide clear and unambiguous standards by which we might assess the progress of a power-sharing democracy, we need to be explicit about the priority that we give to some values and not to others, as well as about the institutional implications of that choice. In order to explore what is at issue here, this chapter critically evaluates the account of democratic values advanced by Robert Dahl in his Democracy and its Critics (1989). Although this prominent account is both plausible and coherent in its own right, this chapter suggests a number of ways in which it would need to be developed before it could provide meaningful guidance with respect to the challenges of sharing power in divided societies.

Publication metadata

Author(s): O'Flynn I

Editor(s): O'Flynn I; Russell D

Publication type: Book Chapter

Publication status: Published

Book Title: Power Sharing: New Challenges for Divided Societies

Year: 2005

Pages: 15-29

Publisher: Pluto

Place Published: London

Notes: The application of political philosophy, and in particular political theory, to divided societies has yet to receive the sustained attention that it deserves. This is a major omission since empirical approaches typically lack explicit normative guidance, especially with respect to questions of institutional design. The significance of this book chapter stems from the fact that it sits at the interface between political philosophy and conflict studies. The collection in which it is contained is a multi-disciplinary volume that brings together leading scholars from the fields of political science, political theory, law, gender studies, sociology and psychology. It is one of the first books to explicitly consider the challenges that divided societies once the transition to power-sharing democracy has already been made.

Library holdings: Search Newcastle University Library for this item

ISBN: 0745322921