Academic journal article Public Administration Review

Public Administration, Ethnic Conflict, and Economic Development

Academic journal article Public Administration Review

Public Administration, Ethnic Conflict, and Economic Development

Article excerpt

The implications of ethnic pluralism has been a neglected topic in the literature on public administration.(1) Normally, this literature assumes a society of individuals who may be divided by age, gender, region, occupation, or class, but not by ethnicity--collective racial, cultural, or religious identities. This is equally true of the subfield of development that is concerned with problems of public administration in less-developed countries and with shaping administrative institutions that are conducive to social and economic development. Likewise, the copious literature on economic development demonstrates little concern for ethnic cleavages. The tendency is to treat such plural systems as India, Nigeria, Turkey, and Russia as integrated societies with aggregate economic growth as the accepted policy goals.(2)

The literature on ethnic politics pays little attention to public administration; it assumes that public administration is merely instrumental to political decisions. Nor does it evince much concern for social and economic development. The purpose of this essay is to emphasize the importance of ethnic realities in public administration and thus begin the process of integrating these three separate streams of policy-relevant literature. While the scope of public administration and of ethnic politics is self-explanatory, "development," as I employ the concept, includes three distinct dimensions: economic expansion, distributional equity, and political legitimation.(3)

More than 90 percent of the sovereign states into which this planet is politically divided contain one or more ethnic minorities of significant size (Gore, 1993). This phenomenon prevails in all the world regions, including prosperous industrialized as well as low income, less-developed countries. In most of the less-developed countries, ethnic minorities have been mobilized to defend their collective interests and promote their demands for security, status, economic opportunities, and political power in competition, civil or violent, with other ethnic communities and in opposition to government policies and practices.

Cleavages along ethnic lines produce ethnic politics, the frequent progenitor of the militant ideology of ethnonationalism. Under these circumstances ethnic politics constitutes an important dimension of public affairs, pervading the environment in which public administration functions. It becomes a critical intermediary between public administration and economic development.

It is unlikely that this problem will diminish in importance. The second half of the twentieth century has witnessed the collapse of First the European colonial empires and more recently of the vast Tsarist-Soviet empire. These have opened political space for the activation of previously quiescent ethnic communities within the boundaries of the emergent states. At the same time, unprecedentedly large flows of immigrants have created new minorities of substantial size in the industrialized countries of Europe and North America, minorities with distinctive cultures and vulnerable as strangers to hostility and discrimination. From their ranks and from the ranks of newly activated indigenous minorities, political entrepreneurs emerge to articulate grievances, aspirations, and claims on behalf of their communities. Their presence, in turn, generates backlashes from the "native sons" who believe that their interests and status are threatened by aggressive intruders. Thus, in most countries, ethnic factors already constitute a significant dimension of politics and government, and therefore of public administration, and this will continue for decades to come.

Participation in State Bureaucracies

There are two principal expressions of the relationship between public administration, economic development, and ethnic politics. First, the internal structures of public administration, its formal bureaucracies, contain important rewards for ethnically identified individuals and their communities. …

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