QoG lunchseminarium med Matthias vom Hau
The Information Capacity of States, Ethnic Diversity, and Social Development.
Despite the prevailing consensus in the social sciences that ethnicity is best approached as constructed and time-variant, much of the cross-national scholarship continues to employ ethnic diversity as an exogenous variable. In response a growing body of work has started to endogenize ethnic heterogeneity by focusing on the identity-shaping role of states. Combining cross-national statistical analysis and in-depth historical case studies of Argentina, this paper draws on the recent “informational turn” in the study of the state to identify the specific channels by which state capacity affects ethnic diversity. We show that when states were able to gather and analyze accurate information about their populations, they were more effective in eradicating ethnic minorities and/or socializing them into the dominant national identity, resulting in less diversity over time. In advancing this line of argument we make two broader contributions. First, while recent scholarship on state capacity demonstrates that information capacity is a fundamental aspect of state strength and associated with a variety of substantive outcomes, our paper further theorizes and empirically demonstrates how information capacity shapes subsequent patterns of ethnic identity. Second, our findings provide the backdrop to revisit the diversity-deficit thesis. Against the claim that ethnic heterogeneity constitutes an inherent obstacle for development, we instead explore the role of the state’s information capacity in shaping both, ethnic diversity and social development, and the potential spuriousness of the relationship.