Ethnocracy

An ethnocracy is a type of political structure in which the state apparatus is controlled by a dominant ethnic group (or groups) to further its interests, power and resources. Ethnocratic regimes typically display a 'thin' democratic façade covering a more profound ethnic structure, in which ethnicity (or race or religion) – and not citizenship – is the key to securing power and resources. An ethnocratic society facilitates the ethnicization of the state by the dominant group, through the expansion of control likely accompanied by conflict with minorities or neighbouring states.

Definition

In the 20th century, a few states passed (or attempted to pass) nationality laws through efforts that share certain similarities. All took place in countries with at least one national minority that sought full equality in the state or in a territory that had become part of the state and in which it had lived for generations. Nationality laws were passed in societies that felt threatened by these minorities' aspirations of integration and demands for equality, resulting in regimes that turned xenophobia into major tropes. These laws were grounded in one ethnic identity, defined in contrast to the identity of the other, leading to persecution of and codified discrimination against minorities.[1]

Research shows that several spheres of control are vital for ethnocratic regimes, including of the armed forces, police, land administration, immigration and economic development. These powerful government instruments may ensure domination by the leading ethnic groups and the stratification of society into 'ethnoclasses' (exacerbated by 20th century capitalism’s typically neo-liberal policies). Ethnocracies often manage to contain ethnic conflict in the short term by effective control over minorities and by effectively using the 'thin' procedural democratic façade. However, they tend to become unstable in the longer term, suffering from repeated conflict and crisis, which are resolved by either substantive democratization, partition, or regime devolution into consociational arrangements. Alternatively, ethnocracies that do not resolve their internal conflict may deteriorate into periods of long-term internal strife and the institutionalization of structural discrimination (such as apartheid).

In ethnocratic states, the government is typically representative of a particular ethnic group, which holds a disproportionately large number of posts. The dominant ethnic group (or groups) uses them to advance the position of their particular ethnic group(s) to the detriment of others.[2][3][4][5] Other ethnic groups are systematically discriminated against and may face repression or violations of their human rights at the hands of state organs. Ethnocracy can also be a political regime instituted on the basis of qualified rights to citizenship, with ethnic affiliation (defined in terms of race, descent, religion, or language) as the distinguishing principle.[6] Generally, the raison d'être of an ethnocratic government is to secure the most important instruments of state power in the hands of a specific ethnic collectivity. All other considerations concerning the distribution of power are ultimately subordinated to this basic intention.[citation needed]

Ethnocracies are characterized by their control system – the legal, institutional, and physical instruments of power deemed necessary to secure ethnic dominance. The degree of system discrimination will tend to vary greatly from case to case and from situation to situation. If the dominant group (whose interests the system is meant to serve and whose identity it is meant to represent) constitutes a small minority (typically 20% or less) of the population within the state territory, substantial institutionalized suppression will probably be necessary to sustain its control.