The relationship between ethnic communities, autonomy policy and state fragmentation. (1998)
This thesis is concerned with the disparate experiences of states implementing some form of autonomy policy. In certain states, such policy appears to act as a lever for eventual state fragmentation, whereas others experience no such tension. The primary objective is to ascertain whether state fragmentation can be attributed to the particular policy approach adopted, the social and political environment of a state, or a combination of these. The theoretical framework employed is formulated from a number of works on ethnicity, and a model is then tested against the experiences of the United Kingdom, Belgium, and Switzerland. The tendency for state fragmentation is conceptualised as a process, and four hypotheses are developed, each focusing on a distinct stage of this process. The first of these focuses on the relationship between ethnic community identification, and changes in the salience of an ethnic identity. The second traces the relationship between ethnic salience, and support for ethnically-based political parties. The third examines the relationship between ethnically-based political party electoral support and the implementation of autonomous policy, whereas the forth considers the link between the type of autonomy policy implemented, and the likelihood of state fragmentation. In addition, two central questions are considered. The first determines the relative importance of the social and political environment of a state and the second focuses on the type of policy implemented.
The evidence from the case studies confirms the validity of hypotheses one, three, and four, and provides tentative evidence for hypothesis two. The thesis concludes with several findings. The first is that the salience of an ethnic identity is closely related to changes to the markers that identify a particular ethnic community. The second is that an ethnic party with significant electoral support is in an advantageous position to solicit the implementation of autonomous policy, and that more extensive forms of autonomy policy can contribute to the fragmentation of the state, as they lower the barriers to independence. Finally, the social and political environment of a state is an essential element in the process of state fragmentation because it establishes the basis for the implementation of autonomous policy. Particular environmental factors will inhibit the implementation of autonomous policy, lowering the potential for fragmentation. The thesis suggests that particular combinations of environmental and policy factors are important in understanding why certain states appear likely to fragment, while others remain stable polities. The findings suggest that central governments should critically appraise the potential affects of proposed autonomous policy, and consider the ramifications of the unique social and political environment of the state.
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