Elgar Handbook of Civil War and Fragile States
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Elgar Handbook of Civil War and Fragile States

Edited by Graham K. Brown and Arnim Langer

The Elgar Handbook of Civil War and Fragile States brings together contributions from a multidisciplinary group of internationally renowned scholars on such important issues as the causes of violent conflicts and state fragility, the challenges of conflict resolution and mediation, and the obstacles to post-conflict reconstruction and durable peace-building.
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Chapter 2: Ethnicity

Robert H. Bates


Ethnicity poses major challenges to our understanding. How is the good polity to deal with cultural differences? Is it to insist that each individual be treated ‘equally’? Or is it to take official note of cultural variation and ethnic diversity? These questions pose challenges for normative theorists. Equally compelling are the challenges posed to students of development, a subfield in which the study of ethnicity looms large. Among the many things that ‘development’ can denote, I refer to two: economic prosperity and political security. Ethnicity plays an ambivalent role with respect to each, it would appear, promoting private accumulation but inhibiting public investment and multiplying opportunities for peaceful bargaining while also provoking bloodshed and violence. Even within a discussion so narrowly framed, the relationship between ethnicity and development emerges as complex.

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