Social Identification and Ethnic Conflict
Yale University - Political Science
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem - Department of Economics
September 12, 2012
When do ethnic cleavages increase the risk of conflict? Under what conditions is a strong common identity likely to emerge, thereby reducing that risk? How are patterns of social identification shaped by conflict? We draw on empirical results regarding the nature and determinants of group identification to develop a simple model that addresses these questions. The model highlights the possibility of vicious and virtuous cycles where conflict and identification patterns reinforce each other. It also shows how processes of ethnic identification amplify the importance of political institutions and points to the effects of national status and the salience of ethnic cleavages. Finally, we demonstrate how a small but sufficiently potent group of ethnic radicals can derail a peaceful equilibrium, leading to the polarization of the entire population. We reexamine several historical cases as well as empirical correlates of civil wars in light of these results.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 66
Keywords: conflict, ethnicity, social identity, civil wars, peace
JEL Classification: D74working papers series
Date posted: November 5, 2011 ; Last revised: September 12, 2012
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