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Majority-Minority Relation in Multiethnic Societies Essay

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In multiethnic and multiracial societies, conflict, discrimination and inequality are

Deeply rooted, and carry serious implications for all members of that given society. The interaction with one another between the ethnic and a group varies according to the social, cultural, and political conditions found in the society. Race refers to a group of people who consider themselves physically distinct in some way, and are considered by themselves or others to be a distinct group. The concept of race has a physical and social component.

A group of people of the same race who interact with one another and who develop some common cultural characteristics are known as a racial group. While on the other hand, an ethnic group is defined as a group of people who are generally recognized by themselves and or others as distinct group, and have a social characteristic that passes from one generation to another Characteristic that would define an ethnic group would include a common language, religion, national origin, dietary practices etc According to the Sociologist, majority is defined as a group which is dominant in a society, while a minority group is defined as any group that is assigned an inferior status.

A minority is a category of people who lack power, privilege, and prestige in social, political or economic spheres. They are unable to achieve their will and lack resources to support their own interests effectively. They have a shared sense of identity and are a people who are singled out for unequal treatment., The majority or minority group status is usually determined by race or ethnicity, physical disability, sex, lifestyle or sexual orientation can also be used to assigned group status. The use of the term minority and majority in sociology does not indicate numbers but rather the majority is the dominant group and the minority is the subordinate group.

The majority minority relationship is affected by the following; racial prejudice, ideological racism or racist ideology. Racial prejudice is the attitudes and beliefs that people have about a group. Ideological racism or racist ideology refers to the belief that certain races are biologically, intellectually, or culturally inferior to others. The main characteristic of ideological racism is that it justifies domination and exploitation of one group above the other. The behavior by groups or individuals that leads to unequal treatment of other individual or a group based on racial, ethnic, religious, or gender is referred to as discrimination.


These are some of the theories used to describe or to help in understanding of minority majority relation from the two sociologist perspective.

Functionalist theory

It is a school linked with sociologists such as Talcott Parsons, Wilbert Moore, Kingsley Davis, and Emile Durkheim (Farley, 20007:22). Durkkgeims(1964) early paradigm of social stratification likened society to an organism with its need for order and organized solidarity, was important in shaping functional explanations. He attributed inequality to difference in ability and talents, and the notion that one group could use its power to dominate another group was never central in his analysis (Kitano, 1985). The main characteristics of this theory are; Society consists of a number of interdependent parts.

Every element performs some function as societies tend toward stability and equilibrium, and finally consensus and stability are desirable in society. In general, for the functionalists, if a group experiences social problem (e.g. Unemployment), they probably lack the necessary skills that are required in the job market (Farley, 2000).

Conflict theory

Farley (2000:73) contends that conflict theory arise primarily from the work of Marx and was continued in the work of C Weight Mills and Ralf Dahrandorf. The general underlying assumption associated with conflict theory is that society is made up of groups with competing self-interests. Many a time the competing groups have unequal power. People compete for resources that are in scarce supply. This occurs because wealth and power are distributed unequally. Conflict theory consist of the following four points; conflict built into the society; the unequal distribution of power and wealth makes the society naturally to tend towards conflict this because different social groups have different and conflicting interests.

One group becomes dominant; the dominant group usually uses its power to control most or all others aspects of the social structure. They control a vast disproportionate share of scarce resources such as wealth and social status. Consensus in artificial; According to this point of view, when a consensus appear in a society, it is artificial and is unlikely to persist over the long run. Consensus in a society is either based on coercion and/or repression by the dominant group. Forth, conflict in society is desirable; Conflict is considered desirable because it makes possible social changes which may lead to more equitable distribution of wealth and power.

Amalgamation theory

The amalgamation model (melting-pot theory) sees the dominant culture as a conglomeration of all groups in society. Each group actively desires to be a part of the dominant culture and makes an important contribution to the whole in active desire to be a part of the dominant culture.

Assimilation theory

This is the process of being absorbed in the mainstream of the dominate culture. This assimilation model demands that other groups conform to the dominant culture. New comers are to be socialized into the dominant culture that is already present. Thos notion is generally complex since the dominant culture actively desire a minority who is culturally similar (in language and ideology) but there are limits.

Pluralism theory

(Salad bowl theory) In a pluralist society unique groups coexist side by side. The uniqueness of each group is considered as a trait worth having in the dominant group. The consequence of living in such a society is recognition and tolerance of cultural and ethnic diversity. Example: American Indians in Santa Fe selling art work. (Long, 2007).

Ethnic stratification theory

It refers to a system that distribute scarce resources on an unequal basis according to race and ethnicity (2000). The stratification must meet some kind of societal need according to the functionalist argument. Ethnic stratification exists because it serves he interests of the dominant elite. It occurs because of the exploitative nature of the majority group as a whole or because of the exploitative nature of the wealthy elite within the majority group (Farley, 2000). Example Journal Article on the Arab minority in Israel and its relation with the Jewish majority. The article reviewed and analyzed recent developments in research on the Arab/Palestine minority in Israel which is a good illustration of the ethnic stratification. (Yiftachel, 1992).


Farley, J.E (2002) Majority-Minority Relation.(4th Ed.) Englewood Cliff, N.J; Prentice Hall.

Kitano, H.L. (1985) Race Relations. (3rd Edition) Eaglewood Cliff, N.J.: Prentice Hall.

Long, R (2007).Introduction to Sociology: Majority/Minority Relation.

Yiftachel, O. (1992). Studies in Comparative International Development (SCID): Journal, Voume. 27, Number 2. Page 57-83.

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