The Dynamics of Ethnic Competition and Conflict

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Stanford University Press, 1992 - Social Science - 271 pages
The United States has frequently experienced outbursts of ethnic violence during its history, but the historical evidence indicates that not all ethnic groups were equally likely to be victims of violence. Why should different groups at different times and places be the targets of confrontations, riots, protest marches, and other forms of collective action? The author focuses on the period 1877-1914, which was a time of massive immigration, economic turbulence, increasing industrialization, labor strife, and shifting race relations. During this time, violence against blacks rose dramatically, while violence against Asian and European immigrants rose and then subsided. The author uses daily newspaper accounts from the largest 77 cities in the United States to reconstruct the exact timing of ethnic confrontations. She then puts forward a new theory of ethnic conflict and tests it with data on events and with information on economic, social, and political changes during the period. Contrary to conventional explanations that focus on the degree of inequality or cultural differences among racial groups, the evidence in this book suggests that the explanation of ethnic unrest is to be found in the processes of competition. Although earlier theories of race and ethnic conflict have often assumed that ethnic conflict is primarily a function of poverty or deprivation, the evidence presented in this book contradicts this view. Paradoxically, the analysis suggests that conflict arose during periods of economic expansion as well as during periods of economic contraction. The author explains this anomaly by arguing that ethnic conflicts erupt when ethnic inequalities and racially ordered systemsbegin to break down - when, in other words, different ethnic groups find themselves competing for key resources such as jobs and housing. The book analyzes ethnic violence at three levels: at the national level, it examines the impact of economic fluctuations and immigration flows;

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About the author (1992)

Susan Olzak is Professor of Sociology at Stanford University. She is the author of The Dynamics of Ethnic Competition and Conflict (Stanford University Press, 1992).

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