Disclaimer. Don't rely on these old notes in lieu of reading the literature, but they can jog your memory. As a grad student long ago, my peers and I collaborated to write and exchange summaries of political science research. I posted them to a wiki-style website. "Wikisum" is now dead but archived here. I cannot vouch for these notes' accuracy, nor can I say who wrote them.
De Figueiredo and Weingast. 1999. The rationality of fear: Political opportunism and ethnic conflict. In Civil Wars, Insecurity, and Intervention, eds. Walter and Snyder. New York: Columbia University Press, pp. 261-302.
The authors attempt to answer to puzzling question:
In the authors' words:
"Understanding the ethnification of politics requires addressing two fundamental puzzles, one economic and one political (Weingast 1998). The fundamental economic puzzle of ethnification concerns its huge costs. Individuals and groups locked in these struggles forgo the enormous benefits of economic and social cooperation in favor of bitter violence and hardship. Why do citizens take actions leading to this negative-sum outcome? The fundamental political puzzle of ethnification concerns its timing. How do we explain the often sudden eruption of ethnic violence, especially when it follows a long period of peace? Addressing this puzzle requires three cornponents: an explanation of the period of quiescence, the timing of violence, and why violence erupts so suddenly, often in full force in a very short period."
"Three factors interact to produce ethnic violence: leaders with a tenuous hold on power, fear among the citizenry, and uncertainty about the true intentions of propagators of violence." The third factor is essential to understand "the link between a leader's claims and the rising fear among citizens."
The variables, then, are as follows:
More on the importance of X3:
"The critical factor beyond Milosevic's direct control was that the Croatians' actions 'confirmed' (in the Bayesian sense) Milosevic's claims about them. Given the causal ambiguity about growing tensions [i.e. Serbs weren't sure who was causing the pot to boil], Croatia's actions increased the 'average' Serbian citizen's subjective assessment that the Croatians were bent on violence against Serbs. Had the average citizen known for sure that Milosevic sought to incite the Croatians [i.e. that it was Milosevic, not the Croatians, causing tension], the average citizen would not have reacted with the fear of bad consequences that moved them to support Milosevic." (See example on 264-265.)
The authors' model also leads to these conclusions:
Research by the same authors
Research on similar subjects