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David Siroky and Michael Hechter

Why are some countries prone to ethno-nationalist conflict, whereas others are plagued by class conflict? This is a question that has seldom been raised and rarely been examined empirically. This paper presents a social-structural theory to account for the variable incidence of these two forms of political instability. These two types of conflict result from distinct principles of group solidarity – ethnicity and class – and since each individual is simultaneously a member of an ethnic group (or many such groups) and a particular class, these two principles vary in the degree to which they are mutually exclusive or cross-cutting. The degree of economic stratification between groups and economic segmentation within them shapes the relative salience of each principle of group solidarity in any society and is associated with a characteristic form of political mobilization. In places where between-group inequalities are high, and within-group inequalities low, ethnicity should be the dominant principle of group solidarity and serve as the primary basis of group conflict. By contrast, in countries where between-group inequalities are low, and within-group inequalities high, class is more likely to serve as the dominant principle of group solidarity, and conflicts along class lines are more likely. We test these conjectures with data in over 100 countries on cross-cutting cleavages, ethnic war, and class conflict. The results are supportive of the theory, and provide evidence that how groups are stratified and segmented in societies shapes the type of civil war.

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Michael Hechter

This article contends that class politics has receded in advanced capitalist societies during the last century, while cultural politics has increased, and it focuses on social and political institutions, rather than on occupational structure, to explain the shift. Participation in solidary groups has consequences for the social bases of politics, and the political salience of such groups is affected by social institutions that are independent of occupational structure. The first such institution is direct rule. Whereas indirect rule tends to promote class politics, direct rule favors cultural politics. Rapid expansion of direct rule since the 1960s has muted class politics and increased cultural politics. This relationship is not deterministic, however; other institutions can mitigate the effects of direct rule on the social bases of politics.

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Michael Hechter

A structural theory of the relationship between class and status group formation is presented. The approach postulates, first, that differences in the solidarity of any objectively defined group are independently determined within by the extent of stratification among these groups and interaction within them. These expectations are confirmed by an analysis of variation in the solidarity of 17 American ethnic groups in 1970. Second, the relative importance of class as against status group divisions in societies as a whole is held to depend upon the degree of hierarchy and segmentation of their respective cultural divisions of labor. Supportive evidence is found in the examination of differences in the strength of class voting among five Australian states in 1964.

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Michael Hechter

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Michael Hechter

NORMS OCCUPY A CRUCIAL PLACE IN THEORIES OF SOCIAL ORDER. IN THIS ARTICLE, I discuss some of the contributions and limits of norms with respect to the evolution of social order. The problem of social order—that is, the attainment of cooperation among large numbers of individuals—is fundamental to disciplines ranging from evolutionary biology to economics, psychology, political science, sociology, and anthropology. No one can adequately represent the various approaches to this problem that are taken in all these disciplines. In what follows, I sketch out and assess what I consider to be the main explanations currently at play

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Steven Pfaff, Michael Hechter and Katie E. Corcoran

How do insurgents engaged in high-risk collective action maintain solidarity when faced with increasing costs and dangers? Based on a combination of process tracing through qualitative evidence and an event-history analysis of a unique data set assembled from naval archives concerning a mass mutiny in the Royal Navy in 1797, this article explains why insurgent solidarity varied among the ships participating in the mutiny. Maintaining solidarity was the key problem that the organizers of the mutiny faced in confronting government repression and inducements for ships’ companies to defect. Solidarity, proxied here as the duration of a ship’s company’s adherence to the mutiny, relied on techniques used by the mutiny leadership that increased dependence and imposed control over rankand- file seamen. In particular, mutiny leaders monitored and sanctioned compliance and exploited informational asymmetries to persuade seamen to stand by the insurgency, even as prospects for its success faded.

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Rational Choice Sociology

Essays on Theory, Collective Action and Social Order

Michael Hechter

Rational Choice Sociology shows that despite the scepticism of many sociologist, rational choice theory indeed can account for a variety of non-market outcomes, including those concerning social norms, family dynamics, crime, rebellion, state formation and social order.
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Michael Hechter and William Brustein

The rise of the modern territorial state in early modern western Europe was a spatially skewed process. An endogenous model of the uneven pattern of 16th-century state information is presented. It holds that the geographical distribution of the first modern state structures was largely determined by preexisting regional differences of social and economic organization, differences emanating from the 12th century if not earlier. The model specifies that three distinct regional modes of production existed in 12th century western Europe. These postulated forms of social organization are designated as the sedentary pastoral, petty commodity, and feudal modes of production.

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Sun-Ki Chai and Michael Hechter

The problem of order is addressed by considering the crucial role that social groups play in mediating between individuals and the state. We argue that existing individualistic models of anarchic order cannot account for order in large societies, while state-centered models cannot explain the state's origins. The origin of the state can best be explained as the result of interactions within and between highly solidary social groups. Accordingly, we discuss the bases of group solidarity, focusing on the costs of maintaining compliance via monitoring and sanctioning. We examine the relationship between member dependence and solidarity, as well as the conditions for coercive solidarity. Then we explore the implications of group solidarity for the attainment of social order. Highly solidary groups permit the creation and maintenance of social order by using their control institutions to enforce member compliance at a lower cost than the state can. These groups can be considered to be unitary actors at the societal level of analysis. The attainment of group solidarity and social order are viewed as isomorphic processes. Social order is shown to be an outcome of multiple nested layers of group solidarity, with the optimal size and span of nested groups varying from society to society.

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Debra Friedman, Michael Hechter and Satoshi Kanazawa

This paper uses a non-standard value assumption – uncertainty reduction – to explain parenthood. We begin by reviewing the inadequacies of normative and standard rational choice explanations of shifts in fertility behavior. Then we propose a theory of the value of children based on the uncertainty-reduction assumption. Next we generate a range of hypotheses that follow both from this assumption and from a subsidiary assumption of marital solidarity enhancement. Finally, we explore the extent to which implications based on these new ideas are supported by the relevant empirical literature.