Can Democracy be Designed? The Politics of Institutional Choice in Conflict-Torn Societies

Published on 1 January 2003

Constitution drafting has always been undertaken with explicit political purposes in mind. But the process has never been more ambitious, or more difficult, than today as politicians and experts seek to negotiate institutions that will foster stability and order on a democratic basis in countries torn by violent conflict. The extended research investigation out of which this book has grown has ranged across three continents and has examined such apparently intractable cases as Bosnia-Herzegovinia, Sri Lanka and Fiji, as well as apparent success stories like South Africa and Uganda. Three groups of questions are explored. How and by whom were democratic institutions (re)introduced? How are they functioning in practice? And how have they measured up to the pressures placed on them by ongoing violence, poverty, globalization and democratization itself?

The authors, while regarding democracy as a general entitlement, refuse to subscribe to a triumphalist view which sees democracy as a universal panacea. Instead they seek to understand how new democratic institutions work in practice and whether and how they actually facilitate the management of conflict in societies whose coherence is at best fragile. This thoughtful and empirical set of explorations ought to be of use to other post-conflict societies when they come to wrestle with similar problems of institutional design in situations of deepseated social conflict.


Robin Luckham

Emeritus Fellow

Publication details

published by
Zed Books
Bastian, S. and Luckham, R.
1 84277 151 5


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