The dark side of democracy

Michael Mann's book gives us a consistent study of a pressing problem, which we have dealt with in the last century and continues today. Mann has set in motion an elaborate mission trying to give reasons for the materialization of "murderous ethnic cleansing" of our recent past. Mann argues that murderous cleansing is a modern phenomenon because of "the dark side of democracy" but Mann does not claim that democracies regularly commit murderous cleansings. In the nineteen-nineties when the manifestation of what seemed to be a systematic endeavor to eliminate a considerable portion of people of the former Yugoslavia and of Rwanda, later produced questions of incentive behind popular and paramilitary outrages, and so forth to total genocide, to the vanguard of scholarly and journalistic consciousness. The degree of civilian resentment, which went along with efforts to negotiate peace agreements in Northern Ireland and the Middle East throughout roughly the same time-period, only added fuel to the fire for the purpose to comprehend ethnic conflicts. Persia, Assyria, and Babylon are antique political cultures. These ancient civilizations have frequently committed murders and massacres. However, Mann claims, these were normally provoked by political antagonism and not by rival ethnic attachments and associations. The rise of hostilities among ethnically distinct peoples is a typically modern political development. Mann suggests more specifically, that it is a major feature of modern democracy a periodic aspect of democratic politics throughout the twentieth century. Mann writes what he calls ethnic cleansing is a "modern" trend, "because it is the dark side of democracy". These days the ethnic conflict dilemma has definitely not receded, consciousness of its occurrence has steadily declined as the attention paid by the media to geopolitical strategy has come to drown out coverage of domestic conflict and dissolution in the reporting of international affairs since September eleventh.

In regards to the books historical proposal, the structure of pre-modern politics is on the bases of two principles--popular loyalty to a political regime and class subordination. Both of these organizing principles are undermined between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries in Europe: salvation religions provided a substitute set of allegiances to established political loyalties. In addition, subsequent, egalitarian values competed with class hierarchies:

"This situation began to change with the emergence of salvation religions promising membership in the same religious community to all classes and regions. Monotheism tightened this: everyone had to worship the same God through similar rituals. States became "defender of the faith,"... States belonged not to the people, but to princes and aristocrats. Souls but not bodies were democratized and so could be ethnicized". (Mann, pg42)

Under pressure from these developments, modern democratic nations emerged, replacing both political subjects and class subordinates with capacious yet ultimately exclusive ideas of citizenship. Democratic nationality has been capacious in the sense that it has supported extensive membership since its inception, yet at the same time it is alarmingly exclusive in Mann's view to the extent that ethnic foreigners receive great suspicion.

Liberal democratic nations gradually replaced monarchic and estate-based systems with the concept of equal citizenship. Democratic nationalism broadened the foundation of political participation. In liberal democracies, according to Mann's argument, suspicion of this kind has been onset by the existence of additional social interests that cut across ethnic affiliation whilst in them selves being more amenable to political moderation. However, not all modern democracies have been so fortunate as to restrain the overwhelming frenzy of ethnic passion. Where the achievement of moderation has fallen short, Mann contends, the scene has been set for collision amongst opposing nationalities newly liberated from the habits of affiliation and subjection by means of which population groups were previously been ruled. Mann's second thesis states, "Ethnic hostility rises where ethnicity trumps class as the main form of social stratification, in the process capturing and channeling class-like sentiments toward ethno-nationalism". (Mann, pg5)

When nationalism led to ethnic conflict in the last century, the ensuing bloodshed has been more devastating than all the previous death tolls. This book examines why such conflicts have emerged in democratizing European nations and the colonies of former empires. All through the course of the book, the Mann puts a spotlight on bigotry and intolerance in some of the most dreadful events of the twentieth-century. He analyses horrendous acts perpetrated against Armenians, Jews, Bosnian Muslims, Croats, Serbs and Tutsis. Collectively these episodes comprise a dismal catalogue of hatred and devastation committed by democratic or democratizing governments. Nevertheless, Mann's intention is not to itemize a litany of wickedness, but to establish a solid connection between ethnic cleansing and modern democracies.

In pursuing this objective, Mann's method is a mixture of careful scrutiny and inconsistencies. His aim is to produce a rigorously social scientific account of the scale and intensity of civil conflict in the era of representative democracy. At its most acute, The Dark Side of Democracy admirably succeeds in highlighting some of the discrete causal mechanisms by which civil discord is made to degenerate from killing into cleansing. However, in attempting to identify the more fundamental reasons for the prevalence of discord within democratizing regimes, Mann switches from detailed analysis to erroneous speculations, which results in hurting his argument and causes him to contradict himself. For example, he contradicts him self with his third thesis when a few pages afterward he states that the Nazi genocide does not fit into thesis three.

"The danger zone of murderous cleansing is reached when (a) movements claiming to represent two fairly old ethnic groups both lay claim to their own state over all or part of the same territory"(Mann pg 6)... "Nazi genocide does not fit neatly into thesis 3, since Jews were not claiming sovereignty over any part of Germany". (Mann pg 9)

Furthermore, the critical element in Mann's hypothesis is conflating because he is interweaving ethnic nationalism with democracy. Throughout the book the fundamental illuminating, the discussion is more about nationalism than democracy. Almost everything depends on it, yet we are never sure what he means by it. The vagueness surrounding the significance of the phrase "ethnic democracy" never fully addresses the problem that he appropriately believes people urgently need to understand.

In its most simple form, ethnicity is an exclusive kind of social relation. It repudiates a connection between groups living within a common border. Certainly, the varieties of social relationship have always been numerous and intricate, including, personal, familial, influential and cultural relations. The question of the reoccurring national ethnic conflict poses a problem for modern democracies because the democracy of the majority group may exclude the participation of the ethnic minority. On the other hand, does conflict among nationalities occur simply because of attitudes natural in the particular kind of relationship that most understand ethnicity to be? The vagueness surrounding the answer to these questions in Mann's book reflects an older theory that there were in fact "two types" of modern nationalism.

As a vital exercise, Mann's management is compelling. However, as a bright and unique venture, it is rather more challenging. The difficulty with the thesis is simple to recognize. Mann employs suggestive labels intended cumulatively to categorize ethnic intolerance, but does not actually explain how this set of feelings came about other than asserting that they are the trademarks of ethnic democracy. Furthermore, Mann's book The Dark Side of Democracy does clarify how social attitudes cause ethnic cleansing. In addition, Mann does not explain why a certain cause ends of predominating. Among many different varieties of mobilization and group-prejudice of organizations that commit horrific atrocities lies an intricate process of political development and organization. Rather than truly dissecting these developments, Mann presents a term intended as a finished product, which he labels ethnic democracy. In addition, Mann then continues to use this term as an explanation. However, while it is true that there is an essential missing link between the identification of dogmatic or damaging attitudes and the continuation of what the book calls ethnic democracy, the real achievement of Mann's study lies in the attention that it pays to the deteriorating dynamics that afflict democracies once a contest between rival national constituencies are under way.

The title provides the starting point for the explanation in Mann's theories. Ethnic cleansing is not an aberration or an act committed by individuals who are somehow different from the rest of us. It is the result of the democratic advance of the modern era, because when "the people" become the source of sovereignty, the character and composition of the population become the critical elements in defining the polity and society. If the population is defined in ethnic terms, the demos as ethnos, as Mann repeatedly phrases it, then the basis is created for excluding other groups, sometimes by the most violent means. A similar incident can happen in communist systems when defining demos as the proletariat. In those situations, class takes on an ethnic character and non-proletarian elements can be subject to the most severe repressions that look a lot like ethnic cleansings. Yet if ethnic cleansing is a constituent feature of modern democracy, it does not occur everywhere and all the time, as Mann recognizes. He proceeds to a more precise delineation of the conditions that result in ethnic cleansing. These include fractured elite in which one segment is radical. A "core constituency" that is mobilized in support of the ideology and its leaders; competing ethnic groups typically just two that lay claim to the state and territory; and a crisis situation, usually warfare, that dramatically heightens the elite's sense of insecurity and leads it to target a competing minority population as the source of all difficulties.

Mann highlights three factors. Number one; prior going into motion hardly ever does a plan to eradicate an entire population exist. Subsequently when less violent measures fail to produce the desired results and the crisis builds up, the leaders' goals escalate. Generally, at that moment, the state executes the most drastic policy of murderous ethnic cleansing. Mann does not stipulate that violence is indented or not, which is a key principle of the UNCG's meaning of genocide. Number two, the core populace, the people who carry out violent behavior, are usually young males. Usually most of them are not required to carry out ethnic cleansing. Therefore, Mann disputes the widespread notion that ethnic cleansing demands mass participation or support. Lastly, generally elites in control of the nation allow ethnic cleansing to occur. The elites do not necessarily want to commit ethnic cleansing, and it is not some kind of volcano from below or the manifestation of age-old hatreds. The elites simply do not care if it happens because it will not affect their power as long as they stay in control.

Mann articulates his point of view in the first seventy pages or so and in the conclusion. In the middle, Mann presents discussions of the Armenian genocide, the Holocaust, communist cleansing, the former Yugoslavia, and Rwanda. He places much emphasis on Nazi atrocities and not enough on similar crimes committed by the Soviet Union, China, and Cambodia Mann only devotes one chapter to those atrocities. Mann reiterates his theses throughout the book. He does not merely state his theory at the start and the conclusion and then scarcely mention it in the body of the book.

I do not think Mann has proved that ethnic cleansing is "the dark side of democracy." Not a single case he cites involves a democratic regime. The USSR, Democratic Kampuchea, Nazi Germany or any of the other regimes he refers to might have started as democracies but by the time, they started to commit genocide they no longer were. I am not stating that democracies do not commit ethnic cleansing. The United States "cleansed" its lands of what they considered savage native Indians in the eighteen hundreds. Given the cases he discusses, it seems to me that Mann is actually writing about what I would call the dark side of nationalism; one should not equate democracy with nationalism because they are not the equivalent. This basic misunderstanding of nationalism and democracy ultimately damages the explanatory power Mann's book.

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