Oppositions and deadly conflicts among ethnic collectivities are important around the word. Ethnies (our term for ethnic groups) also strongly affect interstate relations. Both interethnic and ethnic-state conflicts tend to be severe, protracted, and intractable. At the extremes, the stakes are total: survival versus genocide

Competition and rivalry for individualized economic and political goods are important, but the most intense conflicts are to be expected when the stakes are collective goods, including categorical claims to prestige and political authority.

States are major actors in creating, accentuating, or diminishing ethnic identities. States are both arenas of rivalry and conflict and resources for ethnic mobilization and counter-mobilization.

Because both ethnies and states are diverse, careful specification is required for fruitful analysis. The same dictum applies for the diverse types of oppositions and of conflicts.

Ethnic conflicts arise from complex combinations of ethnic strength, class, inequality, political opportunity, mobilization resources, interdependence, and international interventions. Frequent but nonviolent protests, for example, are most likely by organized collectivities with substantial resources, operating in relatively open political systems. International aid to parties in domestic conflicts appears to prolong and intensify ethnic struggles.

Research in this field contends with many difficulties, and one-sided theories do not fare well. Yet abundant descriptive materials are available, statistical techniques are improving, conceptual clarification continues, and substantive knowledge does accumulate. Accordingly, there is hope for better understanding of some of the most destructive and tragic conflicts of our times.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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