(B5) Ethnic Mobilization and Political Survival Considerations by State Elites

State elites' preferences for political survival and resource maximization are influenced equally by patterns of ethnic mobilization. In this perspective, the decision of state leaders and high-level bureaucrats to expand the territorial reach of the state and provide public goods depends on the political and economic strength of mobilized ethnic groups. When an ethnic group is in control of desirable economic resources and is able to powerfully advance its collective demands, state officials might be more inclined to establish state infrastructure and invest in public services, largely because they feel threatened by the mobilization and want to keep it under control. We extrapolate this argument from Catherine Boone's (2003) work on state capacity in Western Africa. Boone suggests that state elites are more likely to expand the territorial reach of the state and invest in the construction of local infrastructure (such as building roads, hospitals, or schools) when they feel challenged by an economically and politically powerful rural society (Boone 2003, p. 30-1).

Both of the mechanism variants discussed so far posit an impact of ethnic exclusion or ethnic mobilization on state capacity via the political survival and resource maximization strategies of state elites. State responses to ethno-political inequalities and ethnic collective action might also, however, depend on the preconceived ideas state officials hold about a particular ethnic group. In this line of reasoning, cultural representations, official national narratives, and collective memories mediate the effects of ethnicity on state capacity by shaping how executive authorities and higher-level bureaucrats perceive an ethnic group, and based on that what kind of reactions to ethnic-based mobilization they consider appropriate.

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