Acting Against Reason? Explaining Minority Group Decision Making

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2004-08-30

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This study examines why minority groups choose to employ or not to employ militant strategies when dealing with the state. It examines four cases in Europe: the Corsicans in France, the Basques in Spain and the Russian speaking minorities in Estonia and Latvia. While it is generally assumed that minority groups who are accommodated by the state remain peaceful and groups who face discrimination are more likely to use violence, these cases were chosen specifically for the reason that they have chosen the opposite path. Through the use of primary elite interviews, survey data and secondary sources four hypotheses are tested. The role of economic discrepancy, the international community, culture and the institutionalization of culture are examined. The institutionalization of culture is further broken down into three parts: the impact of geographic isolation, time and repertoires. The study finds that while economics appears to be a sufficient condition for a group choosing violence, it is not a necessary one. The international community, however, appears to be extremely important. When the international community is engaged in a country the minority group sees it as an 'ombudsmen' and remains quiet. Conversely, groups ignored by the international community feel isolated and seek to bring attention to their cause. Culture also plays an important role. The culture of some groups is more accepting of violence than others. Groups with cultures that do not accept violence are much less prone to use it than groups who see violence as an acceptable strategy. Geographic isolation appears to be a way for culture to be institutionalized. Groups who must interact with other groups are less likely to use violence than those who remain physically distant. While time appears to have some role, the more important factor appears to be the time period when the group is in conflict with the state. Certain ideologies are acceptable at different times in history, this impacts the groups available choices. Finally, the use of repertoires also appears to be a factor. Once violence is used it is difficult to stop.

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