The browser you are using is not supported by this website. All versions of Internet Explorer are no longer supported, either by us or Microsoft (read more here:

Please use a modern browser to fully experience our website, such as the newest versions of Edge, Chrome, Firefox or Safari etc.

Strategies for International Legitimacy. A Comparative Study of Elite Behavior in Ethnic Conflicts


  • Kristian Steiner

Summary, in English

Although ethnic conflicts are an acute international problem, researchers in international relations have conducted surprisingly little research in this area. The aim with this study is to analyze one aspect of ethnic conflicts, how the elites representing ethnic groups act to make the great powers legitimize their own demands, and delegitimize the demands of the enemy by adducing to norms. In the study, it is assumed that international legitimacy is an immaterial resource, which could be a valuable substitute in ethnic conflicts for material resources such as weapons and financial assets. Accordingly it is interesting to investigate whether elites with a reduced access to material resources, other things being equal, act more intensely to make the great powers legitimize and delegitimize claims, than elites with somewhat better access to material resources. Usually elites representing ethnic minorities have a reduced access to material resources, and a minority-majority comparison is conducted using a logic of most similar systems design; the behavior of Czechoslovak elite, the majority, is compared with the behavior of German Bohemia in the conflict from 1918-1919. In the study, it is found that the minority elite defined its demands in confromity to norms than the majority. It is also reasonable to believe that elites in ethnic conflicts, acting under a unipolar great power situation have a reduced access to material resources relative to that in a bipolar era. The incitement to be generous with regards to the minority elite with material resources are absent for the only remaining great power; as no additional great power is competing for influence. Therefore, elites acting under bi- and unipolar great power structures are compared; Israeli and PLO elite behavior from 1970-85 is compared with their behavior from 1988-93, where the former period is defined as bipolar and the latter as unipolar. In the research it is evident that the PLO, and later also Israel, redefined their demands in a more norm conforming direction. In the study is also a comparison conducted of most different elites; the German Bohemian elite is compared with the Israeli, and the PLO with the Czechoslovak, in order to see similarities in spite of major systemic differences. A common behavior for all the four elites is the emphasis on the importance of credibility. All elites act in order to increase the credibility of their own demands and decrease the credibility of their enemy1s demands.

Publishing year




Document type



Lund University Press


  • Political Science


  • norms
  • elite behavior
  • strategy
  • Czechoslovakia
  • German Bohemia
  • Israel
  • Freds- och konfliktforskning
  • Polemology
  • PLO
  • International legitimacy
  • ethnic conflict




  • [unknown] [unknown]


  • ISBN: 0-86238-456-7
  • ISBN: 91-7966-390-7

Defence date

28 November 1996

Defence time


Defence place

Eden, room 233


  • Anders Lidén