Jerry Muller’s “Us and Them” is a resounding story about the role of ethnicity in fostering world peace in the 21st century. Muller puts his intentions clear by formally describing ethno nationalism as one of the central tenets in defining world boundaries. That is, ethnonationalism is the form of nationalism where boundaries are drawn based on ethnic backgrounds. Jerry Muller has a strong belief that ethnic diversity which is common in almost all parts of the world is a recipe for chaos. He goes ahead by giving several illustrations to support that ethnic nationalism which fundamentally derives from the belief for people to have their own state, will continue to shape political orientations of many nations in the 21st century. He particularly makes it clear that when the state and ethnic groups within it are incompatible in goals, beliefs, and traditions, then the political direction in that state will not be friendly.
In explaining his belief on the role of ethnonationalism in harnessing world peace, Muller turns people’s attention to the relative peace and stability in Europe. He is categorical that due to the serious and violent separations between ethnicities through repressive ways such as expulsions, establishment of new boundaries between states and destruction of weaker communities in Europe, the continent today enjoys the best peace ever. In observing what was taking place in other continents apart from Europe, Muller is convinced that the relationship between states and nations in those continents was much more fragile. As such, he draws similar conclusions to Winston Churchill’s that mixture of different populations or rather ethnic diversity is one of the resources of violence or wars within a nation. This means that, the only way to create world peace is to create separation by portioning different ethnicities.
Generally, Muller’s conclusions in the book leaves more questions than answers. For instance, people, especially scholars are left wondering whether his conclusions are true and can be trusted, and their implications or effects on the chances of world peace. I also personally find myself grappling with so many questions on the validity of Muller’s conclusions especially whether ethnic diversities is a prerequisite for violence. However, while going though the book critically, one is likely to unearth certain levels of classical errors sometimes referred as “the base rate fallacy”.
It is to be understood that base rate fallacy evident in Muller’s work is informed by the few observable events he is aware of. He did not take into account the other side of the coin which is dominated by the non-visible events. Such subjective undertaking or analysis seems to be central to his conclusion about the cause for relative peace in Europe. He particularly became one sided when he only looked at the roles played by violence in creating a homogenized Europe and ignored the role of population diversity in fostering peace in the same continent. For instance, it is common knowledge that the Alsatians, the Bretons, and the Provençals in France have lived in peace and harmony for centuries though they have different ethnic orientations.
In conclusion, Muller offers one resounding explanation for why ethnic diversities is so central in most of the political conflicts. He brings it out clearly that ethnonationalism is both a blessing that creates solidarity and a curse that creates enmity in the many nations. That is, he provides a more conventional picture of ethnic violence in which people of a particular ethnicity tend to develop high affinity for similar ethnic members while rubbishing those from outside. This leaves conflict to be the only resultant reaction to the status of events. In short, Muller has given an elaborate explanation for why many governments in the past have somewhat demonized immigration trends into their countries. More so, his work is central in giving explanations behind the many threats usually hurled by politicians on the possibility of political domination by particular ethnic group.