Understanding Patterns of Democracy: Reconsidering Societal Divisions and Bringing Societal Culture Back In

  • Renske Doorenspleet
  • Ammar Maleki
Part of the International Political Theory book series (IPoT)


Which types of democratic institutions are best to be adopted in divided societies? This chapter builds upon Arend Lijphart’s typologies of democracies (1968–1999), as they have played an important role in the academic debates on institutional reforms and the ‘engineering’ of democratic systems. Doorenspleet and Maleki first provide a short overview of Lijphart’s work in order to show that culture has become less important when studying political institutions. The authors recommend to reintroduce Lijphart’s older ideas and bring societal culture back in. This shift results in a new research agenda, embracing culture as one of the key factors. This is an inclusive rather than exclusive approach to culture; that is, different cultures can establish democracy if they adopt a compatible democratic model. Conceptually, the chapter presents and defines the new idea of ‘cultural compatibility’; when a country’s type of political system is well matched with its dominant cultural orientation, then there is ‘cultural compatibility’. The authors argue that cultural compatibility matters, that is, as it has a positive impact on how democracy works in practice in a country. Empirically, they explore the link between types of democracies (consensus vs. majoritarian systems), societal culture (whether a country’s cultural orientation is mastery or harmony) and societal structure (whether a society is divided or homogeneous). They also present a new operationalization for the concept of ‘divided societies’. In this chapter, Doorenspleet and Maleki do not take Lijphart’s assumptions for granted, but investigate them in cross-national comparative research. They conclude that cultural compatibility is important and deserves more attention in future studies of political institutions.


Societal Divisions Lijphart Doorenspleet Divided Society Majoritarian System 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Renske Doorenspleet
    • 1
  • Ammar Maleki
    • 2
  1. 1.University of WarwickCoventryUK
  2. 2.Tilburg UniversityTilburgNetherlands

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