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A Two-Stage Approach to Civil Conflict: Contested Incompatibilities and Armed Violence

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 September 2018

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We present a two-stage approach to civil conflict analysis. Unlike conventional approaches that focus only on armed conflict and treat all other cases as “at peace,” we first distinguish cases with and without contested incompatibilities (Stage 1) and then whether or not contested incompatibilities escalate to armed conflict (Stage 2). This allows us to analyze factors that relate to conflict origination (onset of incompatibilities) and factors that predict conflict militarization (onset of armed violence). Using new data on incompatibilities and armed conflict, we replicate and extend three prior studies of violent civil conflict, reformulated as a two-stage process, considering different estimation procedures and potential selection problems. We find that the group-based horizontal political inequalities highlighted in research on violent civil conflict clearly relate to conflict origination but have no clear association with militarization, whereas other features emphasized as shaping the risk of civil war, such as refugee flows and soft state power, predict militarization but not incompatibilities. A two-stage approach to conflict analysis can help advance theories of civil conflict, assess alternative mechanisms through which explanatory variables are thought to influence conflict, and guide new data-collection efforts.

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Copyright © The IO Foundation 2018 

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This research was supported by grants from the European Research Council (313373) and Innovation Fund Denmark (4110-00002B). We thank the participants of the European Network for Conflict Research Meeting (Uppsala University, October 2014), the workshop on “Contemporary Conflict Research” (University of Essex, February 2015), the workshop on “Conflict, Strategies, and Tactics” (University of Essex, June 2015), fifteenth Jan Tinbergen European Peace Science Conference (University of Warwick, June 2015), fifth Annual General Conference of the European Political Science Association (Vienna, June 2015), and the workshop on “Conflict and Democratization” (Aarhus, November 2016) for feedback. We are particularly grateful to Daina Chiba, Cullen Hendrix, and Lasse Lykke Rørbæk for insightful suggestions and very detailed comments. We also thank Mette Houborg for research assistance.


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