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2000_146 EXPLAINING ETHNIC POLARIZATION OVER ATTITUDES TOWARDS MINORITY RIGHTS IN EASTERN EUROPE: A MULTILEVEL APPROACH

2000_146 EXPLAINING ETHNIC POLARIZATION OVER ATTITUDES TOWARDS MINORITY RIGHTS IN EASTERN EUROPE: A MULTILEVEL APPROACH

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Published by: SFLD on Jan 30, 2012
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EXPLAINING ETHNIC POLARIZATION OVER ATTITUDES TOWARDSMINORITY RIGHTS IN EASTERN EUROPE: A MULTILEVEL APPROACH
Geoffrey Evans and Ariana NeedEstudio/Working Paper 2000/146March 2000Geoffrey Evans is University Reader in the Sociology of Politics and Fellow at NuffieldCollege, Oxford University. This paper is based on a seminar he presented at the
Center for  Advanced Study in the Social Sciences,
Juan March Institute, Madrid, on 25 November 1999,entitled “Explaining Ethnic Polarization Over Attitudes Towards Minority Rights in EasternEurope: A Multilevel Analysis”.
 
Abstract
This paper examines divisions between majority and minority ethnic groups over attitudes towards minority rights in thirteen East European societies using national samplesurveys undertaken in the mid-1990s. It examines the effectiveness of competing explanationsof ethnic polarization in attitudes towards minority rights, and regional and cross-nationaldifferences in such polarization. These explanations include ‘insecurity’, ‘perceived threat’,‘social differences’, and ‘social distance’. Using multilevel models we find that indicators of ‘social distance’ inter-marriage and social interaction account most effectively for ethnic polarization. However, regional and cross-national variations in polarization betweenmajority and minority groups are explained most effectively by cultural linguistic andreligious differences. These findings accord with research in the West indicating theimportance of cultural differences as a source of ethnic polarization, while offering littlesupport for theories focusing on economic and structural factors or the size of minoritygroups.
 
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Introduction
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Ethnic problems in many East European states are both long-standing and have beengiven renewed vigor following the removal of communist authority structures. In EasternEurope, ethnic heterogeneity is the norm rather than the exception. One might thereforeexpect that majority and minority ethnic groups will differ with respect to their acceptance of the value of inclusive principles of citizenship. They are also likely to differ in their level of tolerance for political and social difference see, for example, Diamond and Plattner 1994;Stepan 1994; Bremmer 1994; McIntosh
et al
. 1995; Evans 1998. Most of all, they can beexpected to differ in their willingness to accord rights to other ethnic groups; what a minoritydemands, the majority may wish to prevent. Many former-communist democracies thus havethe
 potential
for ethnic polarization at a level that could weaken collective community action, provoke intergroup antagonism, and undermine the capacity of the state to manage conflictsof interest - as events over the last decade in the Balkans have demonstrated.The extent to which this potential exists varies considerably between countries inEastern Europe. Although all these countries are undergoing a transition from authoritarianstates with command economies to some variant of free market democracy, they varyconsiderably in their past experiences and current states of ethnic relations and in theconditions which might facilitate or inhibit the presence of more or less harmoniousintergroup relations. Eastern Europe thus provides an important context in which toinvestigate the factors which may influence the extent of intergroup polarization and to testthe efficacy of social scientific theories of such polarization.Analyzing the sources of polarization over minority rights between ethnic groups inEastern Europe does not only provide a testing ground for social theories. The sources of ethnic polarization can be expected to influence the political manageability of ethnic relations
 
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The survey data used in this paper was commissioned as part of the British Economic and SocialResearch Council's East-West Program, Phase 2: Grant no. Y 309 25 3025 'Emerging Forms of PoliticalRepresentation and Participation in Eastern Europe' and by the European Union’s INTAS Project, ‘Ethnicity, Nationality and Citizenship in the Former Soviet Union’ co-directed by the first author.

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