Political Settlements, Elite Pacts and Governments of National Unity

The concept of the 'political settlement' has become a familiar one in the thinking and policy perspectives of the international community and amongst scholars with a special interest in the politics of development. But it has been used in a variety of subtly, but significantly, different ways, sometimes interchangeably with notions such as 'elite pacts' or 'elite bargains' and 'peace agreements'. 

For some, the term encompasses only 'horizontal' agreements between key elites; at other times it has been used to refer to the 'vertical' relations between states and societies. Some conceptions point towards political settlements as 'one off' events, or deals; others suggest that settlements are better used to describe the on-going institutional arrangements and political processes that both reflect and shape the (no doubt changing) distribution of power in a society.  

How are we to make sense of this conceptual jungle? And what about the cognate concept of 'government of national unity' (GNU), which may sometimes be thought to reflect and embody a settlement or pact? 

This paper sets out to do some conceptual ground-clearing. It identifies some of the key differences in the way the notion of the 'political settlement' has been used, and distinguishes it from elite pacts, peace agreements and GNUs. It suggests a practical and pragmatic way of using the concept for analytical purposes, and it outlines ideas for further comparative research into the empirical manifestations of these political processes and their developmental outcomes.

Edward Laws (2012) "Political Settlements, Elite Pacts and Governments of National Unity: A conceptual study", DLP Background Paper 10.

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