The recent literature on consociationalism in post-conflict societies has rekindled an interest in state-building, state failure, state reconstruction, and sovereignty. Moreover, contemporary discussions about sectarianism in the Middle East connect to consociationalism’s roots in the aftermath of the religious wars that wrecked pre-Westphalia Europe. My paper is the first to survey and systematize insights on the role of the state in consociational theory and practice. It is structured around two sets of questions and answers. First, I review six answers to the question “Who owns the state?”: 1) “We do”; 2) “We want a piece of the state; 3) “We want our own state”; 4) “Nobody; 5) “Somebody else”; 6) “What state?”. The second question is about the relationship between the state, its segments, and consociation. Is a state a precondition for consociation or is a consociation a precondition for successful state-building in divided societies? Is there a trade-off between the strength of the state and consociationalism or between the strength of the state and its segments? All these questions and answers have normative and empirical dimensions that will be illustrated with experiences from the Middle East.
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