The Logic of Violence in Civil War

by Stathis N. Kalyvas

Series: Cambridge Studies in Comparative Politics

By analytically decoupling war and violence, this book explores the causes and dynamics of violence in civil war. Against the prevailing view that such violence is an instance of impenetrable madness, the book demonstrates that there is logic to it and that it has much less to do with collective emotions, ideologies, and cultures than currently believed. Kalyvas specifies a novel theory of selective violence: it is jointly produced by political actors seeking information and individual civilians trying to avoid the worst but also grabbing what opportunities their predicament affords them. Violence, he finds, is never a simple reflection of the optimal strategy of its users; its profoundly interactive character defeats simple maximization logics while producing surprising outcomes, such as relative nonviolence in the 'frontlines' of civil war.


In The Press

“While exciting and extensive, the recent literature on civil wars suffers from poorly specified and empirically untested causal mechanisms. Therefore Stathis Kalyvas' important study is a welcome contribution to the field, as it reaches an unprecedented level of specificity and detail without sacrificing analytical cogency. Going beyond simplistic dichotomizations, such as 'greed' and 'grievance,' Kalyvas offers compelling evidence that civil wars often contain micro-level actions that have little to do with the main conflict dimension of the war in question. Reflecting both intellectual curiosity and impressive erudition, The Logic of Violence in Civil War promises to become an instant classic in conflict research in particular, and comparative political analysis in general.”
Lars-Erik Cederman, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich