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Beyond greed or grievance theory – what explains civil war?

Khan, M. Z. I. (2016) Beyond greed or grievance theory – what explains civil war? Peace and Security Review, 7 (15). pp. 26-49. ISSN 1994-2052

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The near absence of inter-state conflicts and a parallel increase in the incidence of intra-state conflicts/civil wars reflects that ‘‘orange is the new black’’ in the context of 21st century history of warfare. Amidst such fundamental changes, Paul Collier and his team offer the greed or grievance theory – a pioneering quantitative research to explain the Byzantine complexities of the risks and processes of civil war onset. The most digested model of the theory examines global data on civil war against three empirical proxies for greed and four for grievance claiming that the material motivation (i.e. greed) holds more explanatory power than ideational motivation (i.e. grievance) in the context of civil war onset. This paper critically examines their claim, comparing and contrasting it with other relevant theories of civil war. It argues that the primacy of economic motivation in civil war does not necessarily imply that the notion of greed and grievance to be juxtaposed; instead, both greed and grievance remain inherently indivisible in civil war. The interplay of greed and grievance in civil war is dynamic and reflects a symbiotic relationship. They are often the shades of same problem and can mutate into one another such as into political greed and economic grievance. The paper substantiates its arguments by highlighting the increasing trend of internationalized civil conflicts where various external actors, exploiting the regional conflict complex and the opportunity structures, can contribute to trigger and or prolong civil wars. Finally, the paper highlights the issues of power and wealth distribution in society and argues that inequality plays a central role in conflict as postulated in the horizontal inequalities (HIs) theory. It contends that the inclusiveness offered in the HIs model to account for group inequalities in economic, political, cultural and social dimensions incorporating both greed and grievance makes this model better poised to explain the incidence of civil war onset.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Politics, Economics and International Relations > Politics and International Relations
ID Code:70680
Publisher:Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies

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