The Foundations of Ethnic Politics: Separatism of States and Nations in Eurasia and the World

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Despite implicating ethnicity in everything from civil war to economic failure, researchers seldom consult psychological research when addressing the most basic question: What is ethnicity? The result is a radical scholarly divide generating contradictory recommendations for solving ethnic conflict. Research into how the human brain actually works demands a revision of existing schools of thought. At its foundation, ethnic identity is a cognitive uncertainty-reduction device with special capacity to exacerbate, but not cause, collective action problems. This produces a new general theory of ethnic conflict that can improve both understanding and practice. A deep study of separatism in the USSR and CIS demonstrates the theory’s potential, mobilizing evidence from elite interviews, three local languages, and mass surveys. The outcome is a significant reinterpretation of nationalism’s role in the USSR’s breakup, which turns out to have been a far more contingent event than commonly recognized. International relations in the CIS are similarly cast in new light.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“The Foundations of Ethnic Politics addresses one of the most important subjects in contemporary social science: namely, why do some ethnic groups begin to demand independent states of their own, while others maintain allegiance to multinational states without pursuing separatist agendas? Henry Hale’s unique synthesis of cutting-edge social psychological research and rational choice analysis, which he terms ‘relational theory,’ generates a fascinating and counterintuitive argument about how the seemingly unassailable U.S.S.R. fragmented so quickly into fifteen independent nation-states. Scholars of comparative ethnic politics and nationalism in the post-Soviet context and beyond will find here an original theoretical angle that generates fresh ideas about longstanding debates.”
-Stephen Hanson, University of Washington

“The Foundations of Ethnic Politics is a major new theoretical and empirical contribution to the burgeoning literatures on ethnicity and ethnic politics. A must read for students of these important subjects.”
-Michael Hechter, Arizona State University

“The Foundations of Ethnic Politics offers a powerful and original theory of ethnic politics. Distinguishing ethnic identification at the individual level from its deployment in group interaction in political settings, Henry Hale is able to show why in some cases ethnicity is associated with peaceful and cooperative relations while in others it is activated in movements for secession and conflict. The book fruitfully applies the theory to an in-depth examination of the politics surrounding the break-up of the Soviet Union, focusing especially on Ukraine and Uzbekistan. Hale explains why it was that, based on their respective assessments of the likelihood that their republics would be exploited in a Russian-dominated union, Ukraine’s leaders drove for secession while Uzbekistan sought to preserve the union. He further shows the implications of his theory for the development of the Commonwealth of Independent States since 1991 and for ethnicity’s role in separatism and integration in international politics more generally. This is an important book with wide ranging implications.”
-Thomas F. Remington, Emory University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521719209
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 6/30/2008
  • Series: Cambridge Studies in Comparative Politics Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Henry E. Hale (Ph.D. Harvard University, 1998, born February 5, 1966) is Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at George Washington University. His work on ethnic politics, regional integration, democratization, and federalism has appeared in numerous journals, ranging from Comparative Political Studies to Europe-Asia Studies to Orbis. His first book, Why Not Parties in Russia?: Democracy, Federalism and the State (Cambridge University Press, 2006), was selected a winner of the Leon D. Epstein Outstanding Book Award by the Political Organizations and Parties section of the American Political Science Association (APSA). His Divided We Stand (2004) won two awards, including the APSA Qualitative Methods Section's 2005 Alexander L. George Award for best article in qualitative methods. The National Science Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and the National Council for Eurasian and East European Research have funded his research. He has also been the recipient of a Fulbright research scholarship, a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard's Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, and a Peace Scholarship from the US Institute of Peace.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements; Note on transliteration; 1. Introduction; Part I. Theory with Worldwide Examples: 2. The need for a microfoundational theory of ethnicity; 3. A relational theory: ethnicity is about uncertainty, whereas ethnic politics is about interests; 4. A theory of national separatism in domestic and interstate politics; Part II. Case Comparisons: Separatism in Eurasia: 5. Ethnicity: identity and separatism in the USSR 1917–91; 6. Central state policies and separatism; 7. Framing: manipulating mass opinion in Ukraine and Uzbekistan; 8. Institutionally mediated interests: the political economy of secessionism; 9. Ethnicity and international integration: the CIS 1991–2007; 10. Quantitative evidence: micro-, macro- and multilevel; Part III. Conclusion: 11. Toward a general theory of ethnic conflict and solutions; Index.
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