Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM the OXFORD RESEARCH ENCYCLOPEDIA, INTERNATIONAL STUDIES ( (c) International Studies Association and Oxford University Press USA, 2020. All Rights Reserved. Personal use only; commercial use is strictly prohibited (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 27 January 2020

Summary and Keywords

One of the biggest challenges in studying internal conflict is the fact that internal strife and instability is not the norm. Across diverse groups, societies, and regimes, cooperation even in the context of contention is typical. However, conflicts that occur along ethnic or nationalist lines are often the most protracted, violent, and difficult to resolve in the long term. Civil wars can be divided into two distinct types: ethnic/religious wars (identity), and revolutionary wars (nonidentity). The distinction between these conflict types is based on whether cleavages within a society occur along ethnic lines or along lines that cut across ethnic divisions and are focused on issues including class, ideology, or seeking significant policy changes. Several scholarly traditions and theoretical approaches exist to explain identity mobilization along ethnic or nationalist lines, the contributing factors that explain the transition from mobilization to the exercise of political violence, the duration of identity-based conflicts, and the long-term prospects for settlement of the conflict. These theories can be organized by societal, political, and economic theoretical approaches. Explanations of conflicts based on sociology and comparative politics focus on the formation and maintenance of identity. Macro-level structural explanations for internal conflict focus on the capability or capacity of the state and the distribution of political authority within a political system as critical components in the emergence of conflict. Economic theories consider the feasibility of opposition and the motivation of individuals to choose rebellion.

Keywords: internal conflict, civil conflict, civil wars, ethnic conflict, ethnic identity

Access to the complete content on Oxford Research Encyclopedia of International Studies requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription. If you are a student or academic complete our librarian recommendation form to recommend the Oxford Research Encyclopedias to your librarians for an institutional free trial.

Please subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.

For questions on access or troubleshooting, please check our FAQs, and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us.