Research Interests

Most of my research has been on political violence in its various forms, and in particular, on explanations for interstate war, civil war, and ethnic violence. My 1995 article "Rationalist Explanations for War" argued that there are essentially only two ways to explain how more-or-less rationally led states that consider fighting costs and risks can get into a war: bargaining failures due to private information about resolve or capabilities, or due to an inability to make credible commitments to uphold a deal. In that paper and in subsequent work I have tried to flesh out and empirically evaluate the most common specific mechanisms through which these higher-level constraints operate. I have also done theoretical and empirical work on the political, economic, and demographic features that distinguish countries prone to civil and ethnic wars; how states use "domestic audience costs" to convey resolve in international disputes; how ethnic groups maintain cooperative interactions in the absence of strong state institutions; and whether foreign aid programs aimed at rebuilding institutions after civil war actually work. Another line of research concerns democratic theory, with articles on the limits of electoral accountability and on the role of implicit threats of rebellion for sustaining democracy.

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Election Year


Primary Section

Section 53: Social and Political Sciences