A brief review of O. Yiftachel’s ‘The Ethnocratic Regime: The Politics of Seizing Contested Territory’

The reading titled ‘The Ethnocratic Regime: The Politics of Seizing Contested Territory’, written by O. Yiftachel, continues on the theme of secession and focuses on its political aspects.  There are three core arguments forwarded by the author.  These include arguments supporting “the existence of an ethnocratic regime as a distinct identifiable type and the existence of a set of mechanisms that shape the ethnocratic regime and explain both persistent patterns of ethnic dominance and regime instability”.  Another salient feature of the reading is the view that the structural features of an ethnocratic institution can be subject to rational enquiry and classified into discernable types.  While the reading largely theoretical and focuses on abstract analysis, it also briefly tests the validity of the theory to cases of ethnocratic regimes in countries such asSri Lanka,AustraliaandEstonia.  This scholarly work by Yiftachel is as relevant to the present times as it was in the centuries past.  For example, cases of chronic ethnic conflict, such as the one betweenIsraelandPalestine, emphasize the need for new theoretical frameworks for carrying out diplomacy.  The seemingly perpetual conflict between the distinct ethnic groups of Sinhalese and Tamils in North Eastern Sri Lanka is another case in point.  The first stage in finding solution to these perennial inter-ethnic problems is in drawing up a robust theoretical understanding.  Other practical and case-specific considerations would fall in place once the politics of ethnocratic regimes are comprehended.  As author Yiftachel mentions in his book, it is disappointing to know that this important area of international politics has not attracted the attention it deserves.


Yiftachel, O. (2006). The Ethnocratic Regime: The Politics of Seizing Contested Territory. Ethnocracy: The Politics of Land and Identity in Israel / Palestine. O. Yiftachel. Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press.