More Lessons Learned from the Holocaust -- Towards a Complexity-Embracing Approach to Why Genocide Occurs

  • Williams T
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Abstract

Why do genocides occur? This paper applies qualitative comparative analysis (QCA) to revisit this question, and analyses 139 cases of genocide and non-genocide. The paper demonstrates the importance of both priming, contextual conditions which provide a political opportunity structure conducive to genocide, as well as triggering, more proximate conditions which constitute immanent motivations. Most centrally, sufficiency is demonstrated for genocide occurrence when an autocratic regime and the salience of an elite's ethnicity are present, and are combined with either an exclusionary ideology or political upheaval. As such, the autocratic nature of the state provides an opportunity structure allowing genocide to occur, while the salience of elite ethnicity can serve as a motivation. Finally, the ideology and the political upheaval serve as an additional motivation or opportunity structure, respectively. While political upheaval can play a part in causing genocide, its role is much more understated than is suggested in previous literature.

Author-supplied keywords

  • QCA
  • conflict processes
  • genocide

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Authors

  • Timothy Williams

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