Compare and Contrast Essay on Cederman and Girardin Articles About Ethnonationalism Perspective of Civil War

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Cederman and Girardin (2007) argued that the ethnonationalism perspective of civil war best explains the causal relationship between ethnicity and internal conflicts or civil wars. According to the authors, their new model of civil war is a powerful predictor of civil war when compared to the traditional ethnolinguistic fractionalization measures because it incorporates state-centered ethnic configurations instead of symmetric ethnic configurations. The authors used the ethnonationalist model to establish whether their new measure, N*, is a valid measure of civil war like the commonly found. Further, the authors introduced the logic of fractionalization measures and attempted to investigate the causal mechanisms found in them. Using an ethnonationalist perspective of civil war, the authors developed the conceptual frameworks of an alternative scale. The ethnonationalist theory of civil war explains that the occurrence of civil conflict is linked to the exclusion of demographically important groups from power. A higher population of the excluded groups leads to an increased likelihood of successful challenge of the center or the government by these groups. This means that a government can only be stable if the peripheral group is of a small population because it will not have a significant impact on the center.

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On the other hand, Fearon and Laitin (2003) argued that civil violence is not associated with ethnicity or religious differences between different groups of people but, rather, caused by factors that promote insurgency. The authors linked insurgency to weak central governments. The weakness of a central government is manifested through financial instability, poor organization, and political instability. Specifically, countries with weak governments have higher levels of rebel recruitment. Additionally, insurgency thrives when the local police are weak, inept, or corrupt. Police and counterinsurgent weakness is linked to countries’ low per capita income. Additionally, the insurgency is motivated by the rebel’s rough terrain, a terrain that is not familiar with the government but the locals only. After controlling for per capita income, countries with high ethnic and religious diversity were reported to have less civil violence. Other factors linked to insurgency include training, monetary support, and foreign base camps.

Methods Used in the Research of the Article

Cederman and Girardin (2007) used the ethnonationalist methodology of civil war to explain the causal relationship between ethnicity and internal conflicts. The ethnonationalism model of civil war explains civil war using two approaches. First, it identifies the ethnopolitical configuration C* and the mechanism M* that is key to the model. The ethnopolitical configuration C* predicted that the governmental group interacts with every nongovernmental group in the model. However, the model posits no interaction between the nongovernmental groups themselves. Next, using the opportunity-based mechanism M*, the authors posited that internal conflicts are highly likely to occur following exclusion from the power of any demographically significant group. The larger the excluded groups are, the higher the likelihood that they will successfully challenge those in power.

In Cederman and Girardin’s (2007) study, the predictor variables included prior war, per capita income, population, the percentage of mountains, non-contiguous state, oil exporter, new state, instability, and democracy. On the other hand, the primary outcome variable of interest was the civil war. Data relevant to these variables were obtained from Fearon and Laitin's (2003) data set. In order to avoid problems associated with coding, Cederman and Girardin (2007) pick Eurasia and North Africa dataset from Fearon and Laitin's (2003) data set. Following data analysis, it was found out that the N* index of ethnonationalism exclusiveness showed that exclusiveness has a direct positive impact on the likelihood of engaging in ethnic politics and internal conflicts and wars. The relationship between the predictor variable and outcome variable was examined using regression analysis. More specifically, logit analysis was used to analyze the determinants of civil-war onset, 1945-1999. This method of data analysis was used to examine the impact of N* on conflict behavior.

The methodological approach in Fearon and Laitin’s (2003) study involved an insurgency model. The authors operationalized insurgency as a technology of military conflict whose characteristics include small armies with inferior weapons. The insurgents are found in rural areas and can be used to achieve political agendas as well as to show grievances. In Fearon and Laitin’s (2003) study, the authors collected data on three main variables relevant to the purpose of the study. These variables included per capita income, ethnic and religious composition, ethnic War, and democracy and civil liberties. The data for this study were collected from about 45 civil wars which occurred from 1960 to the year the current study was conducted. The researchers listed all violent civil conflicts that met criteria relevant to the current study.

Methodological Differences of Articles

Unlike the traditional ethnolinguistic fractionalization, the modem ethnonationalism perspective of internal conflict or civil wars is a better predictor of the relationship between the factors linked to civil war such as prior war, per capita income, population, the percentage of mountains, non-contiguous state, an oil exporter, new state, instability, and democracy. According to the authors, the ethnonationalism perspective is a powerful predictor of civil war when compared to the traditional ethnolinguistic fractionalization measures because it includes state-centered ethnic factors instead of symmetric ethnic configurations (Cederman & Girardin, 2007). On the other hand, the traditional model of civil wars such as Fearon and Laitin’s (2003) logistical theory of insurgency does not explain how factors related to the state affect civil wars. Therefore, unlike the ethnonationalism perspective, it offers a narrow account of the Civil War.


I further believe that the modem ethnonationalism perspective is more likely to predict violence in civil wars and, therefore, more credible than ethnolinguistic fractionalization. This is because the ethnonationalism approach offers an alternative index of ethnonationalism exclusion known as N*, which is more effective in the assessment of theories of ethnonationalism violence (Cederman & Girardin, 2007). Unlike the traditional ethnolinguistic fractionalization, the ethnonationalist perspective of internal conflict is better in explaining state-centered configurations instead of symmetric configurations of ethnicity.

Moreover, the modem ethnonationalism perspective of conflict is based on two key assumptions that the ethnolinguistic fractionalization models violate. The first assumption is that the state is a critical player in the development of the conflict. Secondly, the ethnonationalism perspective is based on the assumption that civil war occurs in groups of people instead of individuals once there is the politicization of ethnicity and occurrence of social closure along ethnic lines has taken place (Cederman & Girardin, 2007).


Fearon, J. D., & Laitin, D. D. (2003). Ethnicity, insurgency, and civil war. American political science review, 97(1), 75-90.

Cederman, L. E., & Girardin, L. (2007). Beyond fractionalization: Mapping ethnicity onto nationalist insurgencies. American Political science review, 101(1), 173-185.

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