In This Review

Ethnic Politics
Ethnic Politics
By Milton J. Esman
Cornell University Press, 1994, 277 pp

This book is a helpful counterpart to Spinner's, looking at ethnicity normatively rather than sociologically. Like Spinner, the author argues that the liberal perspective that looks to individuals alone is not realistic in the contemporary world. Ascriptive group identities have not inevitably evolved into voluntary ones, as modernization theorists predicted, and cannot be treated as simply illegitimate. The author provides a series of careful definitions of ethnicity, ethnic mobilization, and the like and looks at concrete cases of ethnic politics in Malaysia, South Africa, the Middle East, and Canada. The results are judicious: neither "primordialist" nor "instrumental" theories of ethnicity are fully borne out, and the author provides a number of reasonable, if not entirely new, strategies for states to manage the problem of ethnicity.