Ethnopolitics in the New Europe

Ethnopolitics in the New Europe

Ethnopolitics in the New Europe

Ethnopolitics in the New Europe

Synopsis

What makes some multiethnic states integrate and others descend into civil war? Ishiyama and Breuning extend traditional explanations centred on socioeconomic, cultural and historical factors to argue that the actions of leaders of ethnic segments - too often ignored - are also critical determinants of policy outcomes.

Excerpt

Political movements that appeal to voters on the basis of ethnic ties have captured the attention of policymakers and scholars alike in recent years. Much has been written about the topic. Quite often, reference is made to age-old conflicts; in many works, there appears to be a sense of helplessness in the face of the ferocity that ethnic conflict has displayed at times. We do not share this sense of helplessness, but hope to show in these pages how political leaders shape the course of ethnic politics within their societies. Of course, ethnic resentments must be present for leaders to successfully appeal to their constituents on the basis of ethnicity; but such resentments exist in far more numerous places than those where ethnic conflict is found. What makes ethnicity politically explosive in some places and not in others? We contend that political leaders and political parties are a crucially important variable in shaping the course of ethnic politics.

Political leaders and parties react to the incentives presented by the political institutions within which they function. If ethnic resentments are present, then the incentives or disincentives presented by these institutions shape whether or not leaders will choose to tap into these resentments for political gain. Political leadership is a crucial variable here: It can whip moderate resentments into strong political demands or allay strong resentments with reasonable and moderate political claims. Political leaders cannot manufacture resentments that are not present and cannot ignore severe inequities that face ethnic groups in a society. However, between these two extremes are endless possibilities for politicians and their parties. As we discuss cases from Western and Eastern Europe in the chapters that follow, it will become evident that in all these instances, irrespective of the degree to which resentments were present, political leaders and their parties shaped the course of ethnic politics in significant ways. The Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms in Bulgaria, the Hungarian parties in . . .

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