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08 April 2016

Constitutions and Conflict Management in Africa Reviewed in Perspectives on Politics

The March 2016 issue of the journal Perspectives on Politics included a review of Strauss Center Distinguished Scholar and LBJ School Professor Alan Kuperman’s most recent volume, Constitutions and Conflict Management in Africa: Preventing Civil War through Institutional Design (U. of Pennsylvania, 2015), which emerged from the Strauss Center’s CCAPS program. Reviewer Shanna A. Kirschner places Kuperman’s book in the context of other scholarship on conflict management and constitutional design by Lijphart, Horowitz, Nilsson, and others.

These works, Kirschner says, have created a limiting dichotomy between integrative and accommodative constitutional approaches. Kuperman’s volume contributes a nuanced perspective and pushes back against the dichotomy by concluding that implementation matters more than design. Discussion of implementation has often been absent from previous works, and this is where Kuperman’s volume makes the greatest contribution, Kirschner says.

Instead of large-n statistical models or paired case studies, Kuperman’s volume brings together in-depth analysis of seven cases. Each case evaluates how a state’s institutions responded to various shocks to the system, enabling evaluation of constitutional design under stressful conditions. While suggesting that shocks and constitutional design might be evaluated with even more nuance, Kirschner expressed appreciation for the depth and breadth of Kuperman’s comparative case study approach.

In all, Kirschner says, the book contributes not only a new and frank analysis of constitutional design and conflict management, but also a new cross-national database that will be useful to future investigation of the topic.

The full review is available here. 

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