Capsule Review

The Dark Side of Democracy: Explaining Ethnic Cleansing

In This Review

The Dark Side of Democracy: Explaining Ethnic Cleansing
By Michael Mann
Cambridge University Press, 2004 584 pp. $70.00 Purchase

Ethnic cleansing is typically seen as the work of primitive evildoers operating outside of modernity. In this important and provocative book, the distinguished sociologist Mann argues that murderous ethnic cleansing is in fact an ugly facet of our modern democratic age-that "it belongs to our own civilization and to us." Mann suggests that democratization in particular multiethnic settings can create situations in which "rule by the people" is defined in ethnic terms, leading a majority group to tyrannize minorities. A "danger zone" is reached when rival ethnic groups lay claim to the same territory, and do so with some legitimacy and prospect of success. Often an outgrowth of an unrelated crisis such as a war, ethnic cleansing breaks out when the weaker side fights because of the promise of outside aid-as in the Yugoslav, Rwandan, Kashmiri, and Chechen cases-or when the stronger side believes it can cleanse a state at considerable profit and little risk-as in the Armenian and Jewish genocides. Mann's account is not the last word on ethnic cleansing, but it certainly is among the most sophisticated yet.

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