1. Bibliographic Entry. The Logic of violence in civil war

2.  Author : Stathis Kalyvas

3.  Context: The use of violence in civil wars, purpose, outcomes, etc

4.  Scope:  Covered most civil wars of the previous 300 years

5.  Evidence/credibility:  historical analysis, military and strategic theory, IR theory

6.  Central Proposition/Thesis:   

7.  Sub-themes:

·    Author asks:

o Why do some villages resort to violence and not others?

o Why do the levels of violence differ?

o Why do pre-existing allegiances form?

o Why are there disjoints between the causes of violence and the cause of the war?

·   Proposition I The higher the level of control exercised by· an actor, the higher the rate of collaboration with this actor - and, inversely, the lower the rate of defection.

·   Proposition 2 Indiscriminate violence is counterproductive in civil war.

·   Hypothesis I Political actors are likely to gradually move from indiscriminate to selective violence.

·   Hypothesis 2 The higher the level of an actor's control, the less likely it is that the  Actor will resort to violence, selective or indiscriminate. Therefore, no incumbent violence is likely in zone I (and no insurgent violence is likely in zone 5.

·   Hypothesis 3 The lower the level of an actor's control, the less likely that this actor will resort to selective violence and the more likely that its violence, if any, will be indiscriminate. Therefore, insurgent violence in zones I and 2, if any, is likely be indiscriminate and incumbent violence in zones 4 and 5, if any, is likely be indiscriminate.

·   Hypothesis 4 Under fragmented control, violence will be exercised primarily by the political actor enjoying an advantage in terms of control: incumbents 2 and insurgents in zone 4.

·   Hypothesis 5 Parity of control between the actors (zone 3) is likely to produce no selective violence by any of the actors. (no one has enough information to exercise selective violence.

·   85 Violence is a complex phenomenon, and it clearly encompasses multiple processes and mechanisms

·   Author leans on irregular nature of civil war as the cause of intense violence – which is plausible. But this doesn’t mean the other theories (brutalization, polarization, transgression) don’t have merit.  The causes of intense violence are probably a blend of the 4 theories, with one being primary based on the nature of the civil war and its variable conditions.



 19 , Some distinguish between violence that preserves the social order ("systemically functional" violence) and violence that destroys it ("dysfunctional" violence) (c. Friedrich 1972; Sord 21); others take social and economic oppression (or even competition) to be forms of "structural" violence

). This books narrows down the definition of violence to its physical dimension. At a very basic level, violence is the deliberate infliction of harm on people.

20 , Hence, violence should be analytically decoupled from war, echoing the well-established distinction between jus ad bellum (lawful initiation of war) and jus ill bello (lawful conduct of war).

l. The causes of violence in civil war cannot be subsumed under the causes of civil war; hence a theory of civil wars cannot be a theory of violence in civil wars - and vice versa.6

22 Approaching violence as a dynamic process allows an investigation of the sequence of decisions and events that intersect to produce violence, as well as the study of otherwise invisible actors who partake in this process and shape it in fundamental ways.

26 Violence can be used to exterminate a group or to control it (Semelin 2000) also known as coercive violence.

When violence is primarily used to control a population, it becomes a resource rather than the final product

Coercion fails if it merely destroys the subject whose compliance is sought.

29 The intersection of aims and production of violence generates four ideal types of mass political violence: state terror, genocide and mass deportation, civil war II violence, and a type that may be referred to, for lack of a better term, as "reciprocal extermination"

Coercion is present in standard definitions of state terror

30 The key feature of state terror is that it is exercised against a population that lacks organized alternatives; this may account for the arbitrary character it sometimes takes

Genocide is premeditated, purposive, and centrally planned; it aims toward a nation rather than coercion. A


Reciprocal extermination" is a type of violence that emerges in multilateral, interstate or intrastate contexts where neither political actor intends to govern the population it targets for violence; put differently, political actors hold symmetrical intentions to exterminate each other's "civilian basis

31 This book focuses on the final category, civil war violence. Unlike state repression and genocide, it is not unilateral: it is produced by at least two politically partial and/or overlapping monopolies of violence. 1

This feature turns violence into a process with obvious: implications. First, political actors need to anticipate their opponents' key effects of their violence on civilians. Second, violence is not merely state terror  multiplied by two; whereas the violence under unilateral more or less a direct expression of the intentions of the actor initiating it, in civil wars it reflects the strategic interaction of at least two actors that arc simultaneously present (on the same territory.

36 A related problem is to see civilians as objects rather than agents.

38 ." I describe as "political bias" the failure to recognize the fundamental distinction between peaceful political competition and armed combat - put otherwise, the conceptual conflation of civil wars with regular politics.

Studies of civil war violence are produced by urban intellectuals despite the fact that most civil conflicts are fought primarily in rural areas by predominantly peasant armies. The experience and perspective of ordinary people is remarkably absent from much of the civil war literature, especially theoretical works. Despite an expressed interest in peasants, most studies of rural-based revolutions focus on elites

44 Third, the urban hias is present in explanations of motivations that are heavily lsed toward ideology. There is a clear epistemic bias, at least in the sociological and historical traditions, in favor of the assumption that all (or most) participants in conflicts are motivated by ideological concerns. Because "urban" scholars tend to be primarily motivated by ideology themselves, they often assign unambiguous ideological motives to participants, even if this is not the case.

45 In fact, ordinary people caught in the whirlwind of violence and war are, more often than not, less than heroic: they seek to save one's job, house, family, d, above all, life

48 Instances of violence cannot be considered independently where violence does not occur.

 most available indicators of political violence tend to be unreliable and inconsistent across nations and over time; and, the available data are overly aggregate. Data on violence, when available, can be wildly distorted.

S4 Civil wars vary considerably in terms of magnitude of violence.

Rather than the magnitude of fatalities, it is the victimization of noncombatants that best approximates the perception of excessive violence and atrocity in civil wars –


It has been argued that civil war transforms societies into "Hobbesian playgrounds" (Hedges 2003:163)· Following Hobbes, civil war violence has been causally associated with the breakdown of political order, an insight traceable from Thucydides. The underlying theory is that humans are naturally violent and· likely to express their violence unless constrained.

Four mechanisms possibly link the breakdown of political order to barbarism: first, breakdown reveals or creates a culture of generalized brutalization; second, in the absence of institutionalized justice, it leads to an endless spiral of retaliation; third, breakdown generates security dilemmas, leading to mass preemptive violence; and, fourth, it gives rise to undisciplined armed groups that prey on a fashion reminiscent of medieval warfare.

S7 Second, civil war destroys the psychosocial mechanisms of self-sanction that serve as guides and deterrents for conduct

Third, civil war lowers the cost of violent activity

Fourth, civil war allows the rise in prominence of people with a propensity for violence

58 Fifth, civil war engenders new actors with a vested interest in the perpetuation of both war and violence.

All these! mechanisms converge to generate a culture of lawlessness and violence that can be self-sustaining,

3·2.2. Revenge The desire to avenge a previous violent or nonviolent act (such as humiliation) is widespread even in societies with working judicial systems.

Revenge is probably the most recurrent feature in descriptions of violence ! in civil war, often leading to the metaphor of blood feud or vendetta;

6I 3.2.3. Security Dilemma

. A security dilemma is said to occur when the breakdown of order creates a situation in which individuals coordinating around focal points (primarily ethnic identities) resort to preemptive violence, or the warmongering leaders who do so, because of security fears. Incentives

3·2·4· Medievalization

Anarchy destroys military organization and discipline, thus opening the door to all kinds of violent excesses, undisciplined armed men, marauding soldiers, troops living off the land, and criminal elements prey on the population with complete impunity


By transgressing the jus ad beilurn (the right to wage war), rebels could not hope for protection under the jus in bello (the laws of war); they were, instead, subject to the laws of peace (Donagan 1994: I (39). Paradoxically, then, it is the application of domestic law (either the law of treason or common criminal law) rather than the 1 as the source of barbarism. Therefore a state that experiences a revolt, insurrection, rebellion, revolution, or civil war was essentially beyond the purview of international law


Polarization is a well-known link between civil war and barbarism. It refers to the · intensity of Divisions between groups, "when a large number of conflict group members attach overwhelming importance to the issues at stake, or manifest strongly held antagonistic beliefs and emotions toward the opposing segment,

The intuition is that if a population is clustered around a small number of distant but equally large poles, it is likely to undergo violent conflict.


This thesis posits barbarism as a product of a particular technology of warfare

67  Irregular warfare, thus, takes place when the weaker actor refuses to face the stronger one directly and, instead, fights by deception. In this sense, irre6rular warfare is an unambiguously proclaimed manifestation of military asymmetry.

· Contrary to what is sometimes claimed Of implil:d (e.g., , irregular warfare does not require a specific cause, revolutionary, Communist, nationalist, or otherwise; it can serve any cause

Despite the many appeals to the technology of warfare as a causal variable in barbarism, the actual link between warfare and violence remains unspecified.  

69 The: rationalist variant links violence: specifically to an army's inability to identify the enemy: in an environment where it is impossible to tell civilian from enemy combatant apart, it pays to be violent. On the one hand, rebels are vulnerable to infiltration and  'd have a hard time recognizing informers; on the other hand, incumbents face an enemy that refuses to fight conventionally but succeeds in inflicting casualties. Given such constraints, violence against civilians, including collective reprisals, may appear rational.

82 Beyond polarization, violence may also be endogenous to the war in the  sense of being unconnected to its causes.

It is "cross-fertilized" (Scnaratne 1<)<)7: 14S) and acquires a logic of its own that is dis- . proportionate or even independent of the war's initial causes - and even the war's conduct and aims

83 3·6+ The Technology of Warfare

6 In short, there is a high degree of overlap between civil anti unconventional war - of both the irregular and the "symmetric" kind.

85 " the security variant of the technology of warfare thesis allows predictions about the spatial distribution of violence where armed actors are most vulnerable, they are most likely to use violence. however, this argument does not allow predictions about the type of violence used. Violence can he either selective or indiscriminate, and there is no definitive logic by which to adjudicate whether an increase in security would lead to an increased proportion of one or the other type. The operationalization of "vulnerability" remains, obviously, a key issue

85 Violence is a complex phenomenon, and it clearly encompasses multiple processes and mechanisms

88 The fragmentation of space reflects the fact that irregular war alters the nature of sovereignty in a fundamental way. At its core lies the breakdown of the monopoly of violence: by way of territorially bam! armed challenge.

Political al:tors fal:e three distinct population sets: populations under their full control; populations they must "share" with their rival; and populations COI11plctdy outside their control. These three situations constitute two general types· of sovereignty: segmented and fragmented. Sovereignty is segmented when two political actors (or more) exercise full sovereignty over distinct parts of the territory of the state. it is fragmented when two political actors (or more) exercise limited sovereignty over the same part of the territory of the state.

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