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Ethnic Nationalism: Politics, Ideology, and the World Order

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Researchers have catalogued widespread, often persistent ethnic conflict and ethnic nationalist movements occurring around the world in widely diverse settings. Such constancy in the face of diversity suggests that ethnic mobilization might better be understood by focusing outside national borders, asking: What is it about the modern world system that promotes ethnic nationalist movements? Two international factors contribute to ethnic conflict and ethnic movements : ideology and competition. Ethnic movements find their legitimacy in the ideology of the global order; an ideology that embraces such conflicting principles as, self-determination, sovereignty, terrritorial integrity, representative government, and home rule. Ethnic movements find their material support in the marketplace of international competition; major and regional powers support dissident ethnic groups as they compete for economic and geopolitical advantage in the global arena. During the Cold War many ethnic movements, particularly in the Third World, were supported (some would argue, created) by East-West competition. The global realignment following the disintegration of the Soviet Union has reduced ethnic tensions in some cases (e.g., Angola) and increased ethnic conflict in other cases (e.g., Iraq). This realignment appears to be precipitating a new era of state making that is likely to set into motion a nationalist-subnationalist dialectic in which ethnic minoirities, enclosed in newly formed states, challenge new regimes for autonomy or independence, creating further Balkanization.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Sociology, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas 66045-2172.


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