Conflict as the absence of contract

Mansoob S. Murshed


Two phenomena have been recently used to explain conflict onset: Greed and grievance. The former reflects elite competition over valuable natural resource rents. The latter argues that grievance fuels conflict. Central to grievance are concepts of interethnic or horizontal inequality. Identity formation is also crucial to intrastate conflict, as it overcomes the collective action problem. Conflict can rarely be explained by greed alone. The greed explanation for conflict duration and secessionist wars works best in cross-country studies but has to make way for grievance-based arguments in quantitative country-case studies. Grievances and horizontal inequalities may be better at explaining why conflicts begin, but not necessarily why they persist. Neither the presence of greed or grievance is sufficient for the outbreak of violent conflict, something which requires the breakdown of the social contract.


Civil war; greed versus grievance; social contract

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