Author Biography

Jürg Steiner, University of Bern and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Maria Clara Jaramillo, Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, Bogotá.


In the 1960s, consociational theory was developed to explain how deeply divided societies can arrive at peace. The theory had, on the one hand, an institutional component with an emphasis on power-sharing institutions and, on the other, a cultural component stressing the importance of a spirit of accommodation. Initially, the theory was based on case studies of countries like Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland, which allowed dealing with both institutional and cultural aspects. Later on, when the theory was tested with a large sample of countries, the cultural aspect was increasingly neglected, because it was difficult to empirically operationalize. The key argument of the article is that the concept of deliberation helps emphasize the cultural aspect of consociational theory, in the hopes of refining, not replacing, consociational theory.