Nothing Left to Lose: Political Inequality and Conflict Recurrence

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What are the causes of conflict recurrence in states recently coming out of a civil war? Various theories focus on how the conflict ends, the development issues the states faces post-war, or the effect of a third-party intervention as the prime factors leading to a stable peace or renewed violence. However, very little work has been done to measure the effect that achieving a group’s goals has on their likelihood to return to war. Following in the grievance-based argument for conflict onset, wherein the horizontal inequalities – the inequalities across groups – lead to conflict, this thesis focuses on what happens after the fighting has stopped and groups evaluate how they fared from the conflict. Groups which are historically and continually excluded from political decision-making may see conflict as their only means of addressing the grievances that remain post-civil war. Conflicts can also cause groups to lose their political status that the group may view as unfair; they may see conflict as the best means to regain their former position. While the theory holds that these groups will seek renewed conflict to address their concerns, the empirical data suggests that political grievances may have little to do with why states witness new episodes of fighting. Utilizing the Ethnic Power Relations Dataset, this analysis shows that the economic development level and the greater number of peace years post-conflict have a far greater influence on whether there is renewed fighting than unaddressed or new grievances. The following research highlights that while the literature may point to political grievances as having a strong influence on the outset of an initial conflict, such grievances may not be enough to push groups to once again return to war.





Kennedy, David (2019). Nothing Left to Lose: Political Inequality and Conflict Recurrence. Master's thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from


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