Building bridges toward political stability
White, Jennifer Joelle
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My research examines three cases of highly developed, Western democracies that have divided populations. These cases share certain historical, geographic, or economic similarities, and they each contain two predominate groups that have vied with each other for political expression and inclusion. Furthermore, each state has attempted to incorporate the respective groups into its political institutions through forms of power sharing or consociationalism. Nonetheless, these states lie along a continuum of political stability ranging from a more inclusive, centripetal political environment to a fragmented, centrifugal configuration. My puzzle considers these differences in political outcomes and asks: What explains the differences in political stability among states that have attempted to accommodate ethnic group divisions? I contend that a top-down, institutional approach that focuses on political elites cannot alone provide political stability and insurance of democratic governance; rather, a “bottom-up” incorporation of societal factors into these political institutions is necessary to assuage group conflict and to provide social as well as political stability within the state.