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Date of Award

10-1991

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Sociology

Supervisor

Alfred A. Hunter

Language

English

Abstract

An essential issue in the analysis of modern liberal democracy is the role of social consensus in the creation, institutionalization and stabilization of democracy. Both consensus and conflict theories implicitly address the role of consensus in democracy. Consensus theory cites the widespread existence of consensus as one of the necessary conditions which allow for the initial creation of democracy. By contrast, conflict theory denies consensus a stabilizing role in democracy; instead, it is the threat or reality of coercion, either economic or physical, that binds democracies together. Neither theory explicitly identifies the source of consensus. Democratic rights are postulated as the focus of consensus for consensus theory. Conflict theory supports the view that democratic procedures will be the focus of whatever consensus exists in society and that this consensus will be segmented by class. This theoretical framework is examined using data from the "Social Change in Canada" project for French Quebec in the context of the nationalist struggle for sovereignty from 1976 to 1981. The results indicate that consensus is focused upon democratic procedures, providing minimal support for conflict theory. However, there was no evidence to support the prediction of a class-based segmentation of consensus. Nor was there any support for consensus theory, casting doubt on the explanatory power of the consensus-conflict debate for modern liberal democracy.

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