A Model of Violent Political Competition
While Section 2.2 established that ethnicity, religion and class-based ideology are the three latent dimensions underlying violent political competition, it also showed that neither governments nor rebel groups necessarily refer to all three dimensions when defining themselves. Why do rebel groups in some countries refer to their ethnic identity, while in other countries they stick to their religious or class-based ideological identity, and in further countries rebels even use a combination of categories from one or more dimensions? The main argument of the present chapter is that the optimal self-definition of a rebel group can be derived from the three-dimensional demographic setup of a society and the government’s patterns of inclusion/exclusion. Thus, knowing these two quantities of interest for a country at a certain time point allows one to make predictions based upon expected utility calculations about the expected size of the rebel movement, which can then be used as a predictor for the onset of civil conflict.
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