Recent research on the causes of violent conflicts has focused predominantly on political and economic grievances, motivations and issues. However, in many conflicts, political and economic issues are accompanied by perceptions of cultural discrimination, exclusion or inequality of treatment. In this paper, we analyze the relationship between culture and conflict within the broader framework of horizontal inequalities - that is, inequalities between culturally defined groups. We argue that an important link between culture and group mobilization, including violent conflict, is the extent to which cultural groups' practices and customs are differentially recognized in and by the state. Differences in the status afforded to different cultures by the state, whether implicitly or explicitly, and popular perceptions of and anxieties over differences in cultural status thus constitute a third dimension of horizontal inequalities, in addition to the political and socioeconomic dimensions, which we term cultural status inequalities. Moreover, we argue that the most dangerous situations exist where all three dimensions of horizontal inequality - socioeconomic, political and cultural status - run in the same direction, or are consistent.
CRISE Working Paper 41, 15 pp.