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Areas of Focus

Conflict and Cooperation

Strategic interaction within and across nations involves conflict and cooperation. Disagreement between a country’s population and its leadership can cause internal conflict, oppression and terrorism. War (whether it occurs across nations or in the form of civil violence) is not only a fundamental and recurring cause of human suffering but also one of the main impediments of economic development. This research area focuses on the fundamental causes of conflict and cooperation using a rigorous methodological approach that combines empirical research and formal modeling and brings together economists and political scientists.

One of the important insights generated by this research is that conflict often arises even though there is some cooperative solution that would have satisfied all the relevant actors. For example, mutual fear can trigger conflict as a defensive strategy to forestall attack by an opponent. On the one hand, communication of motives or confidence-building measures, such as allowing arms inspections, may diffuse tension. On the other hand, they may increase the chances of conflict by exposing the strength or weakness of a country’s arms capabilities. Similarly, desire for political survival will force a country’s leader to appease supporters. Will this increase or decrease the chances of conflict or cooperation? Does the domestic political system play an important in influencing the probability of conflict? For example, are democracies indeed more likely to be peaceful than other political systems? These and other issues will be the focus of this research enterprise. It will also offer policy prescriptions towards arms inspections, counter-terrorism and sponsorship of democracy.

While violent conflict constitutes a paradigmatic case to analyze the drivers of conflict and its resolution, the ensuing lessons can also be applied in various other contexts. Importantly, similar conflict dynamics exist within business settings. Disagreement between workers and owners can lead to costly delays due to strikes and other forms of labor strife. Firms can trigger price wars that destroy value and drive them into bankruptcy. Activists can target firms or industries to change their business practices. The general goal of the research group is to study conflict features in these various domains and propose policies to avoid such conflict.

The research group runs an annual conference centered around these themes.

This year's conference: May 13-14, 2013 Conflict and Cooperation Conference

Here are links to the schedules of past and upcoming conferences:

Conflict and Cooperation May 2012

Conflict and Cooperation April 2011

Conflict and Cooperation November 2008

Conflict and Cooperation November 2007

Conflict and Cooperation March 2006

Conflict and Cooperation November 2006

For research related to this project and any questions about the conference contact Professor Sandeep Baliga, Director, Initiative on Conflict and Cooperation.

©2001 Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University
Kellogg School of Management Ford Motor Company Center for Global Citizenship