Workshop on Microfoundations of Group Conflict

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  • Conflicts between groups remain a devastating phenomenon across the world. Empirical evidence suggests that such conflicts easily enter a vicious cycle of increasing severity. Participation in these conflicts can be associated with tremendous costs, often with the threat to one's own life. From a rational choice perspective, the question naturally arises why people nevertheless partake in such conflicts.

    Answers to this question can be found on several levels. Social institutions may "lock" people into groups, in which e.g. reputation building requires harmful actions towards outsiders. Lacking experience with outsiders may lead to overly pessimistic expectations about their behavior, inducing a will to prevent exploitation. Or, simply, preferences could nurture out-group hate. In either case, overcoming group conflict is far from easy but certainly possible. A central question here is how the design of political institutions can contribute to conflict resolution. Consociationalism as a form government has made multi-group states like Switzerland possible, and inclusive and deliberative forms of interaction and decision-making have enabled the pacification of societies after civil wars. Prudent institutional design, it seems, is thus a necessary step for reconciliation and lasting peace.

    Aim of the Workshop

    Issues of group conflict are relevant from the perspectives of a number of different disciplines, such as political science, economics, history or psychology. The aim of this interdisciplinary workshop is to explore these different perspectives and to jointly contribute to a better understanding of the evolution and resolution of group conflict.

    Especially (though not exclusively) invited are proposals dealing with:

    • Case studies of group conflict
    • Behavioral dispositions to group conflict
    • The effects of political institutions on the development of group conflicts

    The two-day workshop will be organized by Martin Leroch and Claudia Landwehr in cooperation with the Center of Conflict Resolution and will be held February 21-22, 2013 in Mainz, Germany by the Department of Political Science at the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU).

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