Can a society as deeply divided as South Africa become democratic? In a most timely work, Donald L. Horowitz, author of the acclaimed Ethnic Groups in Conflict, points to the conditions that make democracy an improbable outcome in South Africa. At the same time, he identifies ways to overcome these obstacles, and he describes institutions that offer constitution makers the best chance for a democratic future.
South Africa is generally considered an isolated case, a country unlike any other. Drawing on his extensive experience of racially and ethnically divided societies, however, Horowitz brings South Africa back into African and comparative politics. Experience gained in Nigeria, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and other divided societies around the world is relevant because, as South Africa leaves apartheid behind, it will still confront problems of pluralism: racial, ethnic, and ideological. Countries like South Africa, Horowitz argues, must develop institutions capable of coping with such divisions.
Reviewing an array of constitutional proposals for South Africagroup rights, consociation, partition, binationalism, and an enhanced role for the judiciaryHorowitz shows that most are inappropriate for the country's problems, or else run afoul of some major ideological taboo. Institutions that are both apt and acceptable do exist, however. These are premised on the need to create incentives for accommodation across group lines. In the final chapter, Horowitz makes a major contribution to the theory of democratization as he considers how commitments to democracy might be extracted even from political groups with undemocratic objectives.
Ranging skillfully across studies of social distance and stereotypes, electoral and party systems, constitutions and judiciaries, conflict and accommodation, and negotiation and democratization, Horowitz displays a broad comparative vision. His innovative study will change the way theorists and practitioners approach the task of making democracy work in difficult conditions.