4.4.5 The Potential for Ethnic Conflict
As described earlier (188.8.131.52), people are reassured by a sense of belonging to social groups. They value their membership. Social groups form around having shared experiences or tastes: such as living in the same neighbourhood, or working together, or being educated together, or having shared leisure interests. People naturally belong to several such groups. And there can a sense of rivalry between some kinds of group: sports teams, for example.
A shared culture can also be the basis for feeling a sense of group identity – and awareness of difference from other groups – but although people from different cultures can live together peacefully (4.4.1), a sense of difference can become a basis for conflict as described in the following sub-sections:
● Any social group’s sense of identity can be strengthened by depicting other groups negatively (184.108.40.206). This has the potential to turn into hostility.
● Leaders can try to strengthen their power by exploiting that potential: stimulating fear and hostility towards people of different ethnicity, even if they have been coexisting peacefully there for generations (220.127.116.11).
● Immigrants may look different and might have unfamiliar customs. Resentment against the resulting change in the character of a neighbourhood can fuel ethnic conflict (18.104.22.168).
This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books. An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition04/445.htm.