GV4E8      Half Unit
Power Sharing and Institutional Design in Divided Societies

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Paul Mitchell CBG 3.30


This course is available on the MSc in Comparative Politics, MSc in Conflict Studies, MSc in European and International Public Policy, MSc in European and International Public Policy (LSE and Bocconi), MSc in European and International Public Policy (LSE and Sciences Po), MSc in Global Politics and MSc in Political Science and Political Economy. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Priority will be given to students on the MSc in Conflict Studies. This course is capped at 1 group.

Course content

The internal resolution of serious ethnic and national conflicts almost inevitably involves some form of power sharing and/or power division (autonomy and federation). While power sharing is often invoked in normative and comparative accounts of conflict resolution, it is less frequently systematically examined. Conflict and Institutional Design (CID) is a comparative analysis of the making, maintenance and too often breaking of power sharing agreements. When and how are peace agreements negotiated? What type of power-sharing and federal designs are available? Under what conditions is power sharing likely to help contain conflict, and when does it fail? The course will pay particular attention to what happens after a power-sharing agreement is reached. The institutional focus will include analysis of electoral system design for divided societies, the dynamics of electoral and party competition within ethnic segmentation and consociational governance (power-sharing constitutions, executives, legislatures and federations). Why do some power-sharing regimes succeed while others fail?


This course is delivered through a combination of seminars and lectures totalling a minimum of 35 hours in Lent Term. There will be a reading week in Week 6 of the LT.

Formative coursework

Two briefing papers on pre-selected key concepts/cases.

Indicative reading

Lijphart, Arend (2008). Thinking about Democracy: Power Sharing and Majority Rule in Theory and Practice. London: Routledge.

Casperson, Nina (2017). Peace Agreements. London: Polity.

Cederman, Lars-Erik et al. (2013) Inequality, Grievances and Civil War. Cambridge:  Cambridge UP.

McCulloch, Alison and John McGarry (2017, eds) Power-Sharing: Empirical and  Normative Challenges.  London: Routledge.

Phebe Marr and Ibrahim Al-Marashi  (2017), The Modern History of Iraq, Boulder, CO: Westview Press (esp chpts 10.11 and 12).

Anderson, Liam (2016), ‘Ethnofederalism and the Management of Ethnic Conflict: Assessing the Alternatives’, Publius: The Journal of Federalism, 46:1.

Griffiths, Ryan and Louis Wasser (2019), ‘Does Violent Secessionsim Work?’, Journal of Conflict Resolution 63(5): 1310-1336.

Noel, Sid (2005, ed), From Power Sharing to Democracy. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press.

Norris, Pippa (2008). Driving Democracy: Do Power-Sharing Institutions Work? Cambridge University Press.

Gallagher, Michael and Paul Mitchell (2008, eds, The Politics of Electoral Systems. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Reilly, Benjamin (2001). Democracy in Divided Societies: Electoral Engineering for Conflict Management. Oxford UP.

Birnir, Johanna Kristin (2007). Ethnicity and Electoral Politics. Cambridge University Press.


Essay (100%, 5000 words) in the ST.

The research essay will be on a topic of your choice. Having said that the topic will be discussed between each of you and myself and I must approve the topic. The research paper should ideally examine a research question using relevant concepts and theories, and must have an empirical dimension that is relevant to the themes of the course. 'Empirical' is understood in the broadest sense: your material could be a case study set in an appropriate theoretical framework, it could examine a theme with comparative case studies, it could be quantitative or qualitative. Whatever is deemed appropriate to the research question at hand. Bear in mind though that broad surveys are generally not a good idea. After all 5000 words is about half the standard size of a journal article. Much more advice about the essay will be given as the course progresses both collectively and in individual meetings with each of you. One of the aims in asking participants to write a paper is to help you to think about research questions and appropriate research design. Thus we are aiming at more than a traditional essay (which largely summarizes what significant others have said), and to begin to make the transition towards ‘postgraduate research’ in which you help develop new insights and/or new empirical knowledge. This should also help you when approaching the planning and writing of your MSc dissertation. Since you will be working on something that really interests you I hope that this will be an enjoyable experience.

Key facts

Department: Government

Total students 2021/22: 20

Average class size 2021/22: 10

Controlled access 2021/22: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course selection videos

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Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Problem solving
  • Communication