Ethnic Conflicts: Their Biological Roots in Ethnic Nepotism

Tatu Vanhanen

In recent decades ethnic conflict has killed many millions and diminished the lives of many more. In Ethnic Conflicts: Their Biological Roots in Ethnic Nepotism Tatu Vanhanen turns his attention to this vital subject following his ground-breaking studies of democratisation and economic development.

This is a replication on the global stage of his widely cited 1991 study of ethnic conflict in India. It is an evolutionary analysis that combines nuance and quantitative rigor. Vanhanen's starting assumption, that all humans share a common human nature in which nepotism can extend to ethnic kin, is already far ahead of culture-based analyses.

Marshalling data on 176 contemporary societies, Vanhanen finds that 66% of global variation in ethnic conflict is explained by heterogeneity. This is the sort of robust result that comes from using palpable biological variables. There are many other causes of ethnic conflict but none as strong as ethnic diversity. Per capita income, level of human development, and level of democratization explain only between 6% and 16% of variation. Vanhanen concludes that because the predisposition to ethnic nepotism is engraved in the human genome, ethnic conflict will continue into the future.

Reviewers' comments


"Tatu Vanhanen has written a brilliant exposition of the evolutionary psychology and biological roots of the universality of ethnic conflict"
Professor J.P. Rushton, University of Western Ontario

"This monograph is an important contribution to the study of ethnicity and nationalism. Its basis in universal human nature makes it an invaluable handbook for policy makers everywhere."
Dr. Frank Salter, Visiting Scholar, Department of Government and International Relations, University of Sydney




  • Available formats: paper cover or e-book (pdf)
  • 326 Pages
  • ISBN 978-0-9573913-1-4 (paper cover)
  • ISBN 978-0-9573913-2-1 (e-book)
  • Published by Ulster Institute for Social Research, London

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