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Rules That Matter: Political Institutions and the Diversity-Conflict Nexus

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Introduction and Summary

Many political studies on civil war have focused on the role that institutions play in ethnically divided societies. While 'constitutional engineers' have claimed that certain rules and institutional arrangements, like proportional representation or decentralization, help divided societies to maintain peace (Lijphart 1977, 1999; Fearon/Laitin 2003; Reynal-Querol 2005), political sociologists have argued that they only reflect the cleavage lines within such societies (Lipset/Rokkan 1967; Collier/Hoeffler 2004). However, most of the researchers' results are neither robust nor replicable across studies (Hegre/Sambanis 2006).

Examining this contradictory role of political institutions, Schneider/Wiesehomeier (2008: 184) state that, in general, institutions help to reduce conflict, but that this positive effect might be weakened by certain forms of ethnic diversity, namely by polarization, fractionalization, and dominance. They find that the impact of the three diversity indicators on the outbreak of civil war varies across different types of political regimes (ibid.: 199). In addition, Schneider/Wiesehomeier demonstrate that power-sharing institutions are able to relax tense intrastate relations in strongly divided societies (ibid.: 199). Furthermore, presidential systems seem to be the most war-prone institutional settings among the studied democratic regimes (ibid.: 184). Thus, they conclude that rules matter (ibid.: 199).

Although the idea and the way of exploring the research question are exemplary, the research design displays two critical problems, which will be portrayed below. Therefore, I argue that the authors' synthesis of the two conflicting schools of thought suffers from the incompleteness o...

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... Analysis of the Empirical Literature on Civil War Onset. Journal of Conflict Resolution 50 (4): 508–535.

Lijphart, Arend, 1977: Democracy in Plural Societies: A Comparative Exploration. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Lijphart, Arend, 1999: Patterns of Democracy: Government Forms and Performance in Thirty-Six Countries. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Lipset, Seymour M./Rokkan, Stein, 1967: Party Systems and Voter Alignments: Cross-National Perspectives. New York: Free Press.

Reynal-Querol, Marta, 2005: Does Democracy Preempt Civil Wars? European Journal of Political Economy 21 (2): 445–465.

Schneider, Gerald/Wiesehomeier, Nina, 2008: Rules That Matter: Political Institutions and the Diversity-Conflict Nexus. Journal of Peace Research 45 (2): 183-203.

Wolff, Stefan, 2006: Ethnic conflict. A global Perspective. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
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