Driving Democracy
Pippa Norris Books

John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University


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Driving Democracy:

Do power-sharing institutions work?

Pippa Norris

Cambridge University Press, New York/Cambridge 2008

  • Price: $24.99
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press  (2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521694809
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521694803
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Proposals for power-sharing constitutions remain controversial, as highlighted by current debates in Iraq, Afghanistan, Nepal, and Sudan.

This book updates and refines the theory of consociationalism, taking account of the flood of contemporary innovations in power-sharing institutions that have occurred worldwide. The book classifies and compares four types of political institutions: the electoral system, parliamentary or presidential executives, unitary or federal states, and the structure and independence of the mass media. The study tests the potential advantages and disadvantages of each of these institutions for democratic governance. Cross-national time-series data concerning trends in democracy are analyzed for all countries worldwide since the early 1970s. Chapters are enriched by comparing detailed case studies. The mixed-method research design illuminates the underlying causal mechanisms by examining historical developments and processes of institutional change within particular nations and regions. The conclusion draws together the results and the practical lessons for policymakers.

Driving Democracy is designed for those interested in international development, comparative politics, political behavior and institutions, electoral studies and voting behavior, political parties, public opinion, political sociology, political psychology, sociology, and democratization.


Book Reviews:

Andrew Reynolds, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

"In Driving Democracy, Pippa Norris has conducted the most systematic investigation of the effect of power-sharing institutions since Lijphart's groundbreaking work of the 1970s. The fact that she finds significant evidence to support the thesis that power-sharing is better for new democracies offers some hope to the most ragile divided societies in the world today."

Caroline A. Hartzell. Driving Democracy: Do Power-Sharing Institutions Work? By Pippa Norris. (Cambridge University Press, 2008.) Journal of Politics 2009  71(4) pg:1603 -1604.

Power-sharing institutions have been the subject of considerable attention of late, with mediators and policy makers pondering their utility for managing conflict in divided societies ranging from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. In Driving Democracy Pippa Norris provides a valuable contribution to the scholarly debate over which types of institutions—power sharing or power concentrating—are most appropriate for managing democratic transitions and consolidation in societies characterized by conflict. Employing a mixed research design that combines a large-N dataset with qualitative case studies in order to test which institutions ‘‘work’’ best, Norris establishes that power-sharing regimes facilitate the development of sustainable democracy. Although her study may not win over power-sharing skeptics, it does raise the evidentiary bar confronting them should they press
claims that power sharing is counterproductive.

Driving Democracy opens with a puzzle. Drawing on the cases of Benin and Togo, countries which share a number of social and economic characteristics and both of which have experienced periods of military rule and repressive one-party regimes, Norris observes that their political roads began to diverge in the early 1990s. While Benin is today considered a successful African democracy, Togo has a hybrid regime characterized by some trappings of democracy (flawed elections) in combination with human rights abuses. What accounts for these divergent paths? Having discounted a number of possible explanations, among them levels of economic development
(both countries rank among the world’s poorest), ethnic fractionalization (both are multiethnic plural
societies), and international pressures, Norris concludes that institutional arrangements hold the key to the puzzle. Whereas the new constitution Togo introduced in the early 1990s established a powerconcentrating regime, the constitution Benin adopted at that time incorporated a number of power-sharing institutions. Although she fails to ask another important question—why Benin adopted a powersharing constitution and Togo did not—Norris’s puzzle highlights the potential that different types of institutional arrangements can have for processes of democratization.
Norris conceptualizes power-sharing and powerconcentrating regimes on the basis of four formal
institutional features—the type of electoral system, the horizontal concentration of powers in the type of executive, the vertical centralization of power in unitary or federal states, and the structure and independence of the mass media.

Four detailed chapters provide descriptions of the power-sharing and power-concentrating characteristics of each institution and summarize the arguments for and against their democracy-enhancing and conflict reducing effects. Employing cross-sectional timeseries data for 191 countries for the period from 1973 to 2004, Norris tests the effects of each institution on various indicators of levels of democracy. In each instance she finds that it is the power-sharing rather than the power-concentrating versions of these institutions—e.g., proportional representation electoral systems rather than majoritarian systems, federal rather than unitary states—that are associated with higher levels of democracy. The chapter on federalism and decentralization is particularly well developed, with attention given to classifying different types of decentralization (administrative, fiscal, and political) and constitutions (federal, unitary, and mixed unions) in order better to operationalize vertical forms of power sharing. The chapter on the fourth estate, on the other hand, strikes a somewhat odd note in that Norris never makes quite clear how the media fit her definition of a power-sharing institution as one which gives ‘‘multiple political elites a stake in the decision-making process’’ (23).

Working within the framework of consociational
theory, Norris notes at the outset of the book that she seeks to focus on the capacity of institutional reforms to facilitate democratic consolidation and to generate lasting peace settlements in states emerging from civil wars. Although the book thoroughly addresses the first of these issues, it misses the mark where the latter is concerned. First, the empirical tests the book employs are not designed to examine the impact that institutions have on the duration of the peace. A focus on levels of democracy, while appropriate for exploring the impact institutional reforms have on democratic consolidation, says little about the success those reforms have in stabilizing the peace following civil conflict. In light of the increasing number of scholars who claim that introducing democratic institutions, particularly elections, in the immediate postconflict environment is likely to destabilize the peace, it would be of interest to examine the impact
power-sharing and power-concentrating regimes have in this context. Doing so, however, requires
the use of a different dependent variable. Second, as Norris herself notes in passing, additional types of power-sharing institutions may also be central to formulating a durable peace. Rules that call for the government and former armed adversaries to share military power, for example, arguably play as important a role in the construction of negotiated peace settlements now as the formal constitutional rules on which Norris focuses. Studies whose goal it is to examine the impact of power-sharing institutions on settlement stability increasingly take these less traditional forms of power-sharing institutions into account.

Do power-sharing institutions work? The unambiguous answer provided by this book is ‘‘yes’’—they
work to consolidate democracy. Students of consociational theory will find much to admire in this
book. Although it sticks to a formal and traditional conception of institutions that play a role in the
management of conflict, it deftly synthesizes the core assumptions and claims of consociational theory and identifies the limitations of previous research that has sought to test the performance of consociational arrangements on democracy. The scope of the book, combined with its methodological rigor, ensure that it will stand as an important contribution to the empirical study of democracy.

Caroline A. Hartzell, Gettysburg College


List of tables and figures


Preface and acknowledgments



Chapter 1: What drives democracy?

Chapter 2: Evidence

Chapter 3: Democratic indicators and trends

Chapter 4: Wealth and democracy



Chapter 5:  Electoral systems

Chapter 6:  Presidential and parliamentary executives

Chapter 7:  Federalism and decentralization

Chapter 8: The fourth estate


Chapter 9: Conclusions: What works? Lessons for public policy



Select bibliography

Technical Appendix A: Description of the variables and data sources



Copyright 2004 Pippa Norris, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, Cambridge MA 02138. www.pippanorris.co

Last updated 12/12/2009