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 combination of 'thin' democratic facade 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, often through conflict with minorities and neighboring 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. Nationality laws were passed in states that 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 regime control are vital for ethnocratic regimes, including the armed forces, police, land administration, immigration control and economic development. These power government instruments ensure the long-term domination of the leading ethnic groups, and the stratification of society into 'ethnoclasses', which has been exacerbated by the recent stage of capitalism, with its typical 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 long 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 or apartheid.

In ethnocratic states the government is typically representative of a particular ethnic group holding a number of posts disproportionately large to the percentage of the total population. The dominant ethnic group (or groups) represents and use 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 by the state and may face repression or violations of their human rights at the hands of state organs. Ethnocracy can also be a political regime which is instituted on the basis of qualified rights to citizenship, and 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 degrees of institutionalized suppression will probably be necessary to sustain its control.