Accounting for genocide after 1945: Theories and some findings

In: International Journal on Minority and Group Rights


Genocide has been related in social theory to both social and political structure: i.e., plural society (ethnoclass exclusion and discrimination) and types of polities - revolutionary, totalitarian and authoritarian regimes. War has also been noted as an instigator or frequent context of genocide. This paper reviews theoretical expectations and examines the empirical relation between genocides (and other state massacres) and indices of ethnic discrimination, polity form, and war among states in Asia, Africa and the Mid-East from 1948 to 1988. Findings show that (1) most users of genocide are repeat offenders. (2) There is a high likelihood of political exclusion and discrimination of ethnoclasses producing rebellions which instigate genocides and other state-sponsored massacres. (3) As expected, unfree, authoritarian, and one-party communist states (in ascending order) are most likely to use genocide. Democratic states in this era are not perpetrators against their citizens but have been patrons and accomplices of genocidal regimes elsewhere. One-party communist states are 4.5 times more likely to have used genocide than are authoritarian states. (4) States involved in wars are many more times as likely to have employed genocide than other states. Exploring these cases, we find that genocides both lead to war and war leads to genocide through several processes. (5) The use of genocide in conflicts within the state in the regions surveyed tripled between 1968-88 compared to the preceding score of years (10:3 cases). Genocide and genocidal massacres occur so often that they may be considered normal in these regions. Both the theoretical and the policy implications of these findings are discussed. Observing on the latter, we note that journalists and scholars have often confused recognition of genocide and genocidal massacres by framing these cases as 'ethnic conflicts', by confounding the toll of war and massacre and by conflating concepts. To deter genocide, we should promote nonviolent change in order to eliminate ethnoclass domination and monitor civil wars to detect

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