Mar 31, 2011

What explains civil wars?

[o]nce you start thinking about civil war, it’s hard to think about anything else.
That is the last line of the article: Blattman, Christopher, and Edward Miguel. 2010. "Civil War." Journal of Economic Literature, 48(1): 3–57. See it Here

This is the more comperhensive review of the literature on civil wars I have seen, especially from the perspective of economics and political science [but it also includes studies from other social sciences]. 

The authors claim:
In our view, the most interesting directions for research include the internal organization of armed groups, rebel governance of civilians, the strategic use of violence, counter-insurgency strategy, and the roots of individual participation in violent collective action. Each is ripe for the concerted application of contract theory and mechanism design and insights from behavioral economics and industrial organization.
I found very interesting the discussion on: 
  • The importance of polarization, as opposed to ethnic fractionalization, and the measurements of polarization. 
  • Looking at civil wars beyond country borders. 
  • The duration of conflict.
  • Regarding post war recovery, cities that were bombed by US in Japan or Germany during WW II recovered faster. This as also found in Vietnam.
  • The positive effect of postwar conflict aid. 
    Some specific facts are interesting as well:
    • Increases in coffee prices decrease conflict in coffee production zones in Colombia. But the increase in world cocaine prices lead to more conflict in coca growing regions. 
    • Perpetrators in the Rwanda genocide were mainly poor wage earners or land renters . . . the victims were mainly land owners [although this might be explained by the colonial history, and consistent with the socioeconomic facts of Tutsis and Hutus]. 
    I wanted to see more on:
    • Social capital
    • Why civil wars stop?
    • The importance of religion.
    See the blog of Chis Blattman, one of the authors, here. 
    See the impressive TED video by photographer James Nachtwey here.

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