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 traces the effects of national status and perceived differences across ethnic groups. 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.
Worth reading for the modeling of the salience of ethnic identification as an endogenous variable. In related news, I’m starting to work through a backlog of interesting materials accumulated during my busy last few months at work before starting my PhD studies this fall, so expect the pace of blogging to pick up again.