Situating Complex Power Sharing in the Conflict Settlement Literature

The existing literature on conflict settlement offers both normative accounts of the desirability, and empirical evidence of the feasibility, of designing institutional frameworks within in which disputes between different conflict parties can be accommodated to such an extent that political compromise becomes preferable to violent struggle, at least for the majority of parties involved in the conflict in question. Consequently, while there is agreement that institutions matter because they can provide the context in which differences can be accommodated and managed in a non-violent, political way, the existing literature on conflict settlement qua institutional design offers no consensus view about which the most suitable institutions are to achieve this. This debate about how to design institutions to achieve sustainable peace in divided societies has engulfed the theory and practice of ethnic conflict resolution for more than four decades, and has mainly been fought between advocates of consociationalism and their opponents. In the context of this paper, I explore the principal arguments and recommendations put forward in three main schools of thought: centripetalism, consociationalism, and power dividing.