Paradise Is a Bazaar? Greed, Creed and Governance in Civil War

Journal article

de Soysa, Indra (2002) Paradise Is a Bazaar? Greed, Creed and Governance in Civil War, Journal of Peace Research 39 (4).


Some prominent recent studies of civil war argue that greed, not grievance, is the primary motivating factor behind violence, basing their conclusions on a strong empirical association between primary commodity exports and civil war. This study contrasts alternative propositions that see need-, creed-, and governance-based explanations that are intimately related to the question of primary commodity dependence and conflict. Maximum likelihood analysis on approximately 138 countries over the entire post-Cold War period shows little support for neo-Malthusian claims. Abundant mineral wealth makes countries highly unstable, whereas scarcity of renewable resources is largely unrelated to civil conflict. A positive effect of population density on conflict does not seem to be conditioned by renewable resource scarcity. Ethnicity is related to conflict when society is moderately homogenous; a highly plural society faces less risk. Very slight political liberalization leads to conflict, but larger increases reduce the danger considerably, supporting the view that conflict is driven by opportunistic behaviour rather than by grievance. Increases in homogeneity among Islamic and Catholic populations make them riskier. Perhaps institutional factors relating to separation of church and state rather than competing creeds explain culture conflicts. Larger shares of both Christians and Muslims within countries make them safer, contrary to claims of natural antagonism between the two. Governance, proxied by the ratio of total trade to GDP, predicts peace strongly, an under-theorized area within the study of civil war. Trade's relationship to peace is robust to specification and sample size, supporting the findings of the State Failure Project. Greater attention should perhaps be paid to formal and informal institutional factors that create the synergy between private and public spaces for overcoming collective action problems of maintaining peace.

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