Explaining Civil War

Explaining Civil War

A Rational Choice Approach

Syed Mansoob Murshed

This book explores the pre-conditions for conflict in terms of growth failure and critically appraises the greed and grievance theories common to conflict literature. It is argued that various institutional mechanisms of restraint that can be labeled the ‘social contract’ are crucial for violent conflict avoidance. The reasons underpinning the instability of treaties ending civil wars, post-conflict reconstruction issues, liberal peace theory, and how globalization and conflict relate are also examined.

Chapter 8: Conclusions

Syed Mansoob Murshed

Subjects: development studies, development economics, economics and finance, development economics, econometrics, game theory, politics and public policy, international relations, terrorism and security


Thrasymachus: I declare that justice is nothing else than that which is advantageous to the stronger. Plato, The Republic, translated by A. D. Lindsay, 1937, p. 14 This cynical statement regarding the ‘convenient’ nature of justice made in the early part of Plato’s historic work is gradually debunked as we delve deeper into his Republic. Justice, along with its moral, political and economic dimensions, lies at the very heart of a stable and peaceful society. This concept of justice must be genuine, not simply self-serving for the stronger. Plato, along with his student and disciple Aristotle, attributed tendencies towards internal conflict in the Athens of antiquity to three factors (see Jacoby, 2008, p. 10) that still resonate with our modern reality more than two millennia later. They consist of the inequalities within Athenian society, which is nowadays reflected in the horizontal inequalities, polarization and relative deprivation discussed in Chapter 3; the incompetence of the Athenian leadership, whose contemporary form lies partially in poor institutional quality, particularly the lack of constraints on the executive; and the avariciousness in elements of Athenian society, whose modern counterparts are the opportunistic greed theories outlined in Chapter 3. Thus, greed and grievance can, and do, exist simultaneously, particularly after the dynamics of conflict are set in motion. Greed can never be the sole cause of conflict; its large-scale violent expression necessitates institutional failure; this message also runs through the recent work of influential greed theorists such as Paul Collier (Collier and Hoeffler, 2007). The risk...

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