– Assimilation is the type of inclusive policy that serves to strengthen the state the most. At the same time, my results reveal that different types of multicultural policies have different effects. A multicultural policy which recognizes only one dimension of ethnicity tends to lead to more severe internal conflicts than a multicultural approach which recognizes a larger number of ethnic cleavages.
Since 1914, the number of recognized national polities has increased from 55 to 192, making the number of nation-states today greater than at any other time in world history. Yet, despite international recognition, far from all states have the support of their own population. The lack of internal legitimacy poses a great threat to the political system.
– Internal legitimacy is crucial if a state is to develop along a positive path. Without legitimacy, a state constantly needs to control its own population and prevent other groups from taking over political power. If we want to understand why some states are stronger than others, we need to solve the puzzle of why some states have more internal legitimacy than others, says Anna Persson.
Varying types of identity politics
In her study, Anna Persson explores the impact of varying types of identity politics on state development. More specifically, she explores the relationship between the degree to which the leaders of Botswana, Zambia, and Uganda officially recognized ethnic diversity at the time of independence and whether these early decisions have any bearing on the states’ ability to collect taxes.
– From a theoretical standpoint it is quite surprising that people pay taxes since you can never be sure to get your money’s worth. In addition, you pay not only for yourself, but for others too. In this sense, the ability of states to collect taxes reflects the degree of internal legitimacy very well.
Leads to a tronger state
The study reveals that ethnic diversity per se is not a decisive factor explaining varying paths of state development. Rather, it is the degree to which ethnic diversity is officially recognized during formative periods of state development that seems to matter for the ability to govern over the long term. In Botswana, the adoption of policies that aimed at assimilating various ethnic groups into the political majority culture at the time of independence positively affected the ability to govern to a much greater extent than did a multicultural approach in Zambia and Uganda. Yet, the study also shows that a multicultural approach which recognizes a larger number of ethnic cleavages leads to a stronger state than does a multicultural approach recognizing only one dimension of ethnicity. In other words, if a state chooses to pursue a multicultural approach, the results of the study reveal that a multicultural approach which recognizes only one ethnic cleavage is considerably more crippling than a multicultural approach which recognizes a larger number of cleavages.
– If citizens have a large number of political identities to choose between, there is a lower risk of conflict since ethnic identities such as language and region often only partly overlap. Accordingly, a one-dimensional multicultural approach risks leading to more severe conflicts along ethnic lines than does a multicultural approach recognizing a larger number of ethnic cleavages.
Title: The Institutional Sources of Statehood – Assimilation, Multiculturalism, and Taxation in Sub-Saharan Africa
Defense: May 30, 2008, 13.15 pm, Room 10, The University Building, Vasaparken, Göteborg.