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The social dynamics of ethnocentric charge and countercharge are confined almost exclusively to the cultural wars over values and their scope. Social power and the relative positionings of those charging and charged remain largely unaddressed. And yet power is at the heart of the ethnocentric concern, in both its universalistic versions, to maintain and refine social homogeneity. The most extreme form of ethnically predicated and produced homogenization is reflected in the phenomenon of "ethnocratic states." These are states in which a single ethnically defined or self-ascribed group seeks, and seeks to maintain, power on just those terms (Yiftachel, 2002, 2004). In the self-defining extreme, ethnocratic states are keen to remove all those identified within as "minorities" who refuse or (more likely) are refused to join or affirm the dominant conception of social value and belonging, the common "nation-state." The ethnocratic state takes itself to be born out of a single, common history, cultural legacy, language, religious tradition, and racial kinship. Consider, for example, the radical Romanian nationalist Radu Sorescu who first defined the "ethnocratic state" as an aspiring commitment, in his case for Romania in the 1930s (Dreapta). The ethnocratic state thus conceived fashions a peculiar sort of state personality, mixing the perceived need to defend society against or "clean" it of threatening heterogeneities with the related concern to claim power by asserting it over those deemed inferior or immature, distinct or detrimental.

Ethnocentrism as a concept fails in its self-assured lack of relational analysis. It refuses, by extension, any engagement with relations of social power and differentiated social positionings that has been the mark, by contrast, of race critical theory (Essed and Goldberg).


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David Theo Goldberg

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Ephemeris to Evolution - Historical BackgroundEthnocentrism - Definition, Universalizing Ethnocentrism, Conclusion, Bibliography