The Dark Side of Democracy: Explaining Ethnic Cleansing

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ISBN-13: 978-0521538541
ISBN-10: 0521538548
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In addressing the origins of ethnic cleansing, UCLA sociologist Mann (Fascism) locates differing stages of political participation as a major factor. He begins with stable authoritarian regimes (e.g., Tito's Yugoslavia) that exclude participation; when such regimes break down, there is a period of everybody scrambling for power and trying to exclude somebody else with the "else" usually defined on ethnic lines. Other examples include Armenia, the Holocaust and Rwanda, as well as India (the Sikhs and Muslims) and Indonesia (the Chinese). Eventually, the author's somewhat optimistic scenario argues, we arrive at stable participatory societies, with everybody somewhat included and limits set on what can be done to exclude groups (the Voting Rights Act of 1964 in the U.S.). Free from sociological jargon and abundant in historical data, this study sufficiently allows lay readers access. It can be difficult at moments to tell if Mann's prediction of the high body count in the Third World's coming century or so of ethnic cleansing is Eurocentric, callous or grimly realistic, but such moments always resolve into that last choice. Mann proposes some feasible remedies and scales of intervention.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Michael Mann, one of the great sociological thinkers of our day published two impressive books this year (both from Cambridge University Press)..[in]"The Dark Side of Democracy" he examines the intimate connection between democratization and ethnic cleansing... [and] unlike most sociologists, Mann does not write in jargon. Though certainly dense, these books will reward the effort of any non-scholar willing to tackle them."
- Newsday

"The book is impressive in its historical dimensions."
- Canadian Journal of Sociology Online

"This book, almost encyclopedic in content and rich in descriptive analysis, makes a significant contribution to political sociology and should be required reading for social scientists, political leaders, and policy makers. Essential."

"Michael Mann is a purveyor of big ideas, and this big book is full of them, brilliant, powerful, and provocative. Starting from its title, The Dark Side of Democracy launches a debate that will reshape our understanding of the worst of human history in the light of the best, and of the ancient in the light of the modern. Mann combines close empirical insights with a magisterial conceptual grasp. Every page offers points to applaud, dispute, and reflect on. We will be arguing about this work for years, and whatever conclusions we reach will be sharper for it."
- Ben Kiernan, Director, Genocide Studies Program, Yale University

"One of our most distinguished political analysts has turned his attention to the darkest corners of political life, to murderous ethnic conflict. As sketched in this superb book, Mann's account of such cases is timely, provocative - who, for instance, would want to believe that ethnic cleansing bears the imprint of democracy - and ultimately persuasive. A must, if disturbing, read."
- Doug McAdam, Department of Sociology, Stanford University

"Michael Mann's new book is sweeping in its coverage and daring in its argumentation. Its central theme - that murderous ethnic cleansing has accompanied the rise of salvation religion and modern democracy - flies in the face of some broadly held assumptions, namely, that such extreme actions can be explained by recrudescent ancient hatreds or the cynical manipulation of authoritarian elites. Well-researched and compellingly written, this is one of the best recent books on the subject available today."
- Beth A. Simmons, Harvard University

"Free from sociological jargon and abundant in historical data, this study sufficiently allows lay readers access."
- Publishers Weekly

"Michael Mann's The Dark Side of Democracy is an excellent attempt to theorize the origins and escalation of ethnic cleansing by focusing on political power relations within a society."
- H-Genocide, Susumu Suzuki, Department of Political Science, Wayne State University

"The book is a significant contribution to political sociology and to understanding the complex phenomenon of violent ethnic cleansing...The reader cannot but be impressed with the global range and the intensity and accuracy of the research that are reflected in this lengthy text, and with Mann's effort to integrate them into a set of rigorously stated explanatory propositions." The International History Review Milton J. Esman, Cornell University

"In a work of great knowledge and forceful argumentation, Michael Mann seeks to provide a general explanation for one of the worst atrocities of the modern era...Mann's knowledge is wide ranging, and aspects of his analysis are illuminating." - Eric D. Weitz, University of Minnesota

"Mann excels at describing the stages a regime goes through as it descends into ethnic cleansing or mass murder, how an initial plan to privilege one ethnic group over another is twisted and radicalized into the unintended plan 'd' --full scale ethnic murder--and how 'ordinary' citizens are co-opted into endorsing it." - Rima Berns-McGown, The University of Toronto and the Canadian Institute of International Affairs

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (November 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521538548
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521538541
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #955,983 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey M. Cavanaugh on May 4, 2005
Format: Paperback
I liked this book, and found it to be a nice companion piece to Mann's book on fascists. In fact, I would say these two books are really best seen as two volumes of a single work on the forces that create and sustain organic nationalism, and then propel it down the path of ethnic cleansing and genocide. Is this specific work and the larger treatise on organic nationalism flawed? Yes, of course, every scholarly work is inherently flawed and incomplete -- experts on genocide will no doubt nit-pick his details here. But taken together Mann presents two works that are fairly compelling.

What I did find valuable in this book, however, is his argument that ethnic cleansing is the "dark side" of democracy. What does he mean by this? He states it pretty unequivocally on page 2:

"Let me make clear at the outset that I do not claim that democracies routinely commit murderous cleansing. Very few have done so. Nor do I reject democracy as an ideal - I endorse that ideal. Yet democracy has always carried with it the possibility that the majority might tyrannize minorities, and this possibility carries more ominous consequences in certain types of multiethnic environments."

Thus, Mann maintains that genocidal, murderous cleansing is the "dark side" of democracy because before the modern conception of democracy emerged there was no "enemy of the people" that, potentially, needed to be totally exterminated. In times of great social stress the demos of democracy can be replaced by the ethnos - that "the people" can come to hold an organic nationalist meaning as opposed to the pluralist, atomized-individual meaning it holds in the US other liberal democracies. How and why do modernizing peoples choose the organic nationalist path as opposed to the liberal path?
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17 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Christopher W. Coffman on May 6, 2005
Format: Paperback
The great merit of this somber book is that it matter-of-factly includes the Armenian genocide along with the Holocaust as the two most important case studies that Mann examines. The two cases are linked by more than Hitler's infamous remark just before launching Operation Barbarossa "Who now speaks of the annihilation of the Armenians?" The Turkish genocide of the Armenians was also perpetuated by the leadership of a modernizing State, in the context of war, using its organizational and administrative resources to their fullest capacities in an attempt to murder as many members of an entire people as possible. For some reason, it does not sit well with many Holocaust scholars to refer to the tragic pioneering suffering of the Armenians at the hands of the Turks and their allies as genocide, but that was what it was. Mann acknowledges the similarities between the Armenian and Jewish experiences in this book, although he does not demonstrate particular insight into the events that produced the Armenian genocide. Nevertheless, in the prevailing climate of intellectual opinion, which forbids scholarly reference to the mass murders of the Armenians as a genocide, Mann's book constitutes a long step in the right direction.

Mann's two main theses are (1) that ethnic cleansing and genocide are, as his title indicates, "the dark side of democracy", and (2) that genocide and ethnic cleansing often develop their full-blown features as a series of immediate "solutions" to perceived obstacles or frustrations, they are not meticulously planned in advance with their ultimate goal clearly in view.

Despite the scholarly introductory chapter with its elaborate chart depicting Mann's theses (down to parts 4a, 4b, 5, etc.), Mann utterly fails to demonstrate the validity of his first thesis.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Michael Griswold VINE VOICE on June 19, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Michael Mann in his book “The Dark Side of Democracy” attempts to explain ethnic cleansing by looking at the most pronounced cases such as Armenia, Nazi Germany, Yugoslavia, Rwanda, etc. Democracies dark side comes about when the two notions of democracy fall into conflict. The demos-the people and ethos-the ethnic group come into conflict when multiple ethnic groups claim the same piece of territory as their own. The state must also be factionalized and radicalized through some outside force such as war. Often times, mass death was not a predetermined intention of truly evil people—a theory advanced by some scholars, but rather a complex process of interaction between political leaders, militaries, and core constituencies of ethnic nationalism.

Ethnic cleansing is a complex topic demanding of a rich explanation such as the one Mann provides. Mann goes through each case in pain-staking detail describing the road to ethnic cleansing, so that the reader feels as though they are physically on the ground in each of the nations under study. Mann ultimately takes no prisoners, blaming societies equally from colonial powers to autocratic states, to post Cold War democracy. The theory holds up well across cases. Yet, one has to question the use of the term democracy used in this book. I would more call it pseudo democracy, where a country has undergone democratization to a certain point.

One cannot question the scope and depth of Mann’s research however. Despite the books intimidating size at almost 600 pages, the reader tends to get lost in the sociological recounting of these ethnic cleansings.
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