Elite incorporation in multiethnic societies

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This article sheds light on the game of politics, though she focuses on the relatively specific issue of how ethnic elites are most successfully absorbed into modern political parties. This is a tricky business, because it involves attracting new elites while reassuring incumbent ones that their positions are secure. The logic of this proposition is feasible in the case of a growing party (with expanding resources), but otherwise seems to involve a collective action dilemma. This issue's political importance transcends the technical question of elite mobility, however, for ethnic groups, if not successfully coopted into the regnant political structure (through the incorporation of their elites, inter alia), have considerable explosive potential, as illustrated by the recent experiences of Spain, Indonesia, the former Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, and many other multiethnic systems. Contrary to previous theories, which focus in their explanations on the electoral mechanism and interparty competition, attributes successful ethnic elite incorporation almost entirely to internal party structure, demonstrating the logic of her argument formulaically and testing it empirically by tracing the evolution of internal party rules in three states (Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, and the Punjab). She thus draws a distinction between centralized, monolithic organizational structures (such as the Bahujan Samaj Party), which she associates with an unstable party driven by factional splits, and a decentralized, competitive party structure (as in the pre-1972 Congress Party), which she associates with relative stability and successful incorporation of new ethnic elites. The decisive advantage of the latter is that it offers new elites the opportunity to win leadership positions in the system of intraparty elections while reassuring incumbents that newcomers' chances of doing so may realistically be discounted. Both systems are characterized by internecine factionalism, but factionalism tends to be explosive in the former and a relatively routinized and even a salubrious relief mechanism in the latter.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)836-865
Number of pages30
JournalAsian Survey
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Sociology and Political Science


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