April 19, 1999
By Jennifer McNulty
Ronnie Lipschutz, associate professor of politics, is coeditor of the new book The Myth of "Ethnic Conflict": Politics, Economics, and "Cultural" Violence. Lipschutz collaborated on the book with Beverly Crawford of the Center for German and European Studies at UC Berkeley, and several UCSC faculty members authored chapters.
The book seeks to make linkages between ethnic conflicts around the world and the swift pace of global economic integration and political change, said Lipschutz, adding that "ethnic conflict" has become a kind of shorthand that hides the true sources of violent clashes.
Stable societies are built in part on unwritten contracts regarding hierarchy, relations of power, and economic niches, said Lipschutz. Even the prospects of change can be profoundly upsetting, and actual changes can usher in competition for power, including coercion, violence, and corruption.
"The violence in the Balkans over the past 150 years follows major economic and political shifts that have been taking place," said Lipschutz. "True, there are religious differences, but these are fairly recent."
People want to attribute wars to long-standing ethnic conflicts because that justifies and legitimizes the wars--and takes the heat off the proponents of democratization and liberalization, said Lipschutz.
The term "ethnic conflict" conveys the idea of historical grievances with mysterious origins that cannot be resolved politically, said Lipschutz. "It's a convenient term that doesn't actually explain what's going on," he said.
In addition to Lipschutz, UCSC contributors include politics professors Michael Urban and Andrei Markovits, sociology professor Paul Lubeck, and economics professor Nirvikar Singh.
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