No. 2




Parliamentary Culture as a Mirror of General Intercommunication Culture

31 October 2000


RiTo No. 2, 2000

  • Rein Taagepera

    Professor Emeritus of University of Tartu and University of California, Irvine

This comment distinguishes between two ideal types of democratic thinking – majoritarian and consensus democracy – on the basis of Arend Lijphart Patterns of Democracy (1999).

Estonia tends toward consensus, except for cabinet formation on the basis of minimal winning coalitions. The general intercommunication culture, however, includes some traits that occur in Estonia more frequently than in the West: a clear defeat is sometimes deemed preferable to compromise; the pleasure of doing the other guy in overrides one’s own enlightened self-interest; one looks for whom to blame instead of looking for causes; “Excuse me!” is hard to pronounce; and proposals are trivialized by harping on marginal flaws: “To make sense of the other person is easy, misunderstanding takes real skill!” The notions of positive­, zero- and negative-sum games are introduced, warning that even inherently positive-sum games can degenerate and harm both sides, if too many players imagine the game to be zero-sum. Application to Estonian parliamentary culture is limited. The main thing to develop is self-awareness that, possibly for historical reasons, Estonian vocabulary and communication habits include more of a spiteful streak than one would really care to have and that this streak could pull the game toward a negative-sum pattern even where a positive-sum game would be feasible and more fruitful. Compared to neighbouring countries emerging from the same problematic background, though, Estonia in general and its parliament in particular have managed to act rather reasonably, and the trend is toward improvement.

Full article in Estonian


Rein Taagepera, born 1933 finished the French lyceum in Marrakech and an English school in Canada, MA and DSc in physics (1961, 1965) University of Toronto; MA in international relations 1969, University of Delaware, USA. University of California lecturer in politology 1970-, professor 1978-94; Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences of the University of Tartu 1992-94, professor of politology 1994-98; continues teaching at both universities as professor emeritus. Chairman of the Society for the Advancement of Baltic Research 1986-88, member of the Estonian Congress 1990-92, member of the Constitutional Assembly 1991-92, candidate for the President of the Republic of Estonia 1992.