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Identity and Ideology in Political Violence and Conflict

Identity and Ideology in Political Violence and Conflict


A familiar narrative in International Relations scholarship suggests that a fundamental shift in the dynamics of global political violence has taken place in recent times, involving a decline in 'ideological' conflicts, and a rise in conflicts of 'identity'. But the contrast this argument relies on, between ideology and identity, is untenable and unproductive, implausibly denying that ideologies and identity are inextricably interrelated, and exaggerating the novelty and causal centrality of identity's role in conflict. But this is not to say that identity plays no such role. This article explains the failings of the familiar narrative about identity, by demonstrating its fundamentally ideological nature and its nuanced causal role in political violence. It then proceeds to offer a better theoretical framework for thinking about the multiple links between identity and violence. Centrally, I identify six specific causal mechanisms through which identities encourage violence by providing: (i) mobilizing co-ordinates, (ii) targeting categories, (iii) virtue-systems, (iv) obligation hierarchies, (v) victimhood, and (vi) group hatred. Finally, the article considers how this framework permits a more plausible reformulation of some of the kernels of truth in the familiar narrative about identity's importance in contemporary conflict.

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Full Citation: 

Maynard, Jonathan Leader. 2015. "Identity and Ideology in Political Violence and Conflict." St. Antony's International Review 10 (February): 18-52. http://umd.library.ingentaconnect.com/content/stair/stair/2015/00000010/00000002/art00003

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