Orginal Publication Date
Explorations in Sights and Sounds
Susan Olzak’s work, The Dynamics of Ethnic Competition and Conﬂict, is informative and contributes to an understanding of ethnic violence from an historical perspective. The central finding is that ethnic/racial conflict arises from an increase in intergroup competition for social resources. Exploring economic and political competition in the United States from 1877 to 1914, Olzak concludes that violence is most apt to occur when members of a disadvantaged ethnic/racial group experience greater equality of opportunity. This new environment creates a situation whereby members of a formerly segregated group become rivals for social awards. An environment which contains several disadvantaged groups competing for rewards -- a situation which existed in the period under investigation through a combination of racial migration from the south and European immigration -- leads to attacks on groups least able to defend themselves. Thus, the “..... breakdown of racially and ethnically ordered systems unleash forces of competitive exclusion against the least powerful targets in the system” (224). Olzak suggests this situation occured [occurred] with African Americans as European groups achieved social mobility.
Copyright, ©EES, The National Association for Ethnic Studies, 1994