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The Muddle of the 'Westminster Model': A Concept Stretched Beyond Repair

Russell, M; Serban, R; (2020) The Muddle of the 'Westminster Model': A Concept Stretched Beyond Repair. Government and Opposition 10.1017/gov.2020.12. (In press). Green open access

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Abstract

The term ‘Westminster model’, widely used in both the academic and practitioner literatures, is a familiar one. But detailed examination finds significant confusion about its meaning. This article follows Giovanni Sartori's advice for ‘reconstructing’ a social science term whose meaning may be unclear through review of its use in the recent literature. It finds that many authors in comparative politics use the term ‘Westminster model’ without definition, while those providing definitions associate it with a large (and sometimes conflicting) set of attributes, and a set of countries often not demonstrating those attributes. Some have sought to respect this diversity by proposing variants like ‘Washminster’ or ‘Eastminster’, while others suggest that the term should be seen as a loose ‘family resemblance’ concept. But on examination it no longer meets even the – relatively weak – requirements for family resemblance. To end the muddle, and the risk of flawed inferences and false generalization, comparative scholars should drop this term, and select cases based on more precise attributes instead.

Type: Article
Title: The Muddle of the 'Westminster Model': A Concept Stretched Beyond Repair
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1017/gov.2020.12
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1017/gov.2020.12
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Westminster model, Westminster democracy, Westminster system, concepts, constitutions
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Political Science
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10106714
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