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POLS 373 Foundations of Comparative Politics. Banality of ‘Ethnic War’: Discussion Lecture Date: October 11, 2005. Banality of Ethnic War | Discussion. Q: What is Mueller’s central argument?. Banality of Ethnic War | Discussion. Mueller’s Position:

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POLS 373 Foundations of Comparative Politics

Banality of ‘Ethnic War’: Discussion

Lecture Date: October 11, 2005


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Banality of Ethnic War | Discussion

  • Q: What is Mueller’s central argument?


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Banality of Ethnic War | Discussion

  • Mueller’s Position:

    • ‘Ethnic war’ does not exist; instead, conflicts that seem to be defined by ethnic differences are essentially like any other war in which certain, usually small groups of power seekers who create communities of criminal violence and pillage.


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Banality of Ethnic War | Discussion

Questions:

  • How does Mueller go about supporting the argument that he makes?

  • What type of comparative research design does he use?


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Banality of Ethnic War | Discussion

Mueller’s Comparative Strategy? Is it …

  • Case study in comparative perspective

  • Binary analysis

  • Multi-unit (3+) analysis

  • Within-case comparison

  • Analytical induction

  • Mixed design


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Banality of Ethnic War | Discussion

  • Although there might be some debate on Mueller’s comparative strategy, it is fairly clear that he is primarily using …

  • The case study in comparative perspective


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Banality of Ethnic War | Discussion

  • What makes his strategy a case study in comparative perspective?

  • Mueller’s main focus is the violence that took place in the former Yugoslavia; he uses Rwanda (1994) as an explicit secondary case.


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Banality of Ethnic War | Discussion

  • Does Mueller follow the two “rules” of the case study in comparative perspective?

    To refresh your memory, these are:

    (1) to see case in relation to others; and

    (2) to aim at generalization


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Banality of Ethnic War | Discussion

  • Does Mueller follow the two “rules” of the case study in comparative perspective?

    The answer is clearly “yes” on both counts.

    Mueller use of Rwanda demonstrates his clear intention to see Yugoslavia in relation to others; moreover, he points out that his reason for using Rwanda is to “explore the possibilities for generalizing from the Yugoslav experience …”.


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Banality of Ethnic War | Discussion

  • Next important methodological question:

  • What basic logic underlies his comparison of Yugoslavia and Rwanda? That is, is the author’s comparison based on an MSS or and MDS design?


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Banality of Ethnic War | Discussion

  • It is fairly easy to discern that Mueller is using an MDS design.

  • Specifically, Mueller assumes that Yugoslavia and Rwanda are two very different places: different cultures; different political systems; different history of ethnic relations; different geopolitical position; and so on. At the same time, Mueller tells us that there are two key similarities.


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Banality of Ethnic War | Discussion

  • What are the similarities?

  • Independent Variable:

    The existence of vicious, opportunistic, but substantially non-ideological criminals and criminal-like elements

  • Dependent variable:

    An extremely brutal outbreak of societal wide violence


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Banality of Ethnic War | Discussion

  • What conclusions, methodologically speaking, can we draw from Mueller’s argument?

  • Conclusion #1: From a comparative methodological perspective, Mueller’s argument is sound; there are no glaring deficiencies. Improvements, though, are certainly possible.


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Banality of Ethnic War | Discussion

  • How about the quality, sufficiency, and relevance of the evidence Mueller uses?

  • Almost all of Mueller’s evidence is based on secondary sources, and mostly other academic or scholarly articles. Mueller also used some newspaper accounts and a UN-prepared report (which may have been based on some primary source material)

  • Are they any problems with relying almost exclusively on secondary sources?


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Banality of Ethnic War | Discussion

  • What conclusions, empirically speaking, can we draw from Mueller’s argument?

  • Conclusion #2:In terms of evidence, Mueller’s argument is adequate, but problematic given its near exclusive reliance on secondary sources.


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Banality of Ethnic War | Discussion

  • From a theoretical view, Mueller does not discount “ethnicity” completely, but he argues that it served as an ordering device as opposed to causal factor in and of itself.

  • What does this mean? What is an “ordering device”?


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Banality of Ethnic War | Discussion

  • Key point about ordering devices: Mueller suggests that, were there not ethnic differences in either case, those who encouraged the conflict would have (and did, to a limited extent) simply used another available ordering device. Thiscould have been class (i.e., pitting the poor against the rich); loyalty to a particular soccer team (as happened in Rwanda); regional ties; political affiliation; and so on.


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