Unravelling the Complexities of Civil War Escalation
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Complexity is part and parcel of most political and social phenomena and it is the goal of social scientist to reduce this complexity. Newspaper reports, historical accounts, and economic work overflow with explanations for conflict: ancient hatreds incite violence; oil wealth breeds separatism; trade shocks trigger insurrections; income inequality leads to class warfare. Surveying the vast literature on the outbreak of civil war, one feels caught in a complex web of root and proximate causes. Models from both economic and political science have reduced varied accounts of civil war to a few common logics, each of which can be approximated in a parsimonious framework of self-interested, wealth- maximizing groups or individuals. The empirical and theoretical civil war literature have too often run along parallel paths, and empirical models rarely attempt to capture the nuances of a social phenomenon as complex as civil war. I counter these models by presenting a framework that does justice to the complexities of civil war escalation.