Elgar Handbook of Civil War and Fragile States
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Elgar Handbook of Civil War and Fragile States

Edited by Graham K. Brown and Arnim Langer

The Elgar Handbook of Civil War and Fragile States brings together contributions from a multidisciplinary group of internationally renowned scholars on such important issues as the causes of violent conflicts and state fragility, the challenges of conflict resolution and mediation, and the obstacles to post-conflict reconstruction and durable peace-building.
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Chapter 1: Conflict, post-conflict, and state fragility: conceptual and methodological issues

Arnim Langer and Graham K. Brown


In this chapter we explore the concepts of ‘conflict’, ‘post-conflict’ and state ‘fragility’. The objective is to disentangle the conceptual confusion and overlap that exists between these concepts that complicates their use both in academic research and in policy making. After discussing definitional issues relating to conflict and fragility in the next section, we then analyse empirically the global evolution of the incidence and nature of violent conflict and its links with state fragility. In Section 1.4 we then consider issues involved in defining and identifying a ‘post-conflict’ situation and again relate this back to issues of state ‘fragility’. Section 1.5 concludes. Let us start by exploring the concept of ‘conflict’. Conflict is one of the most widely studied concepts and empirical phenomena in the social and human sciences. In 1960, Anatol Rapoport wryly observed that ‘conflict is a theme that has occupied the thinking of men more than any other, save only God and love’ (quoted in Bercovitch et al. 2009, p. 3; Rapoport 1960, p. 12). Moreover, in the contemporary post-9/11 security environment, it is no longer clear that these three concepts are as distinct as Rapoport appeared to assume.

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