C-Escalation and D-Escalation: A Theory of the Time-Dynamics of Conflict


Work data:

ISSN: 1939-8271

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pdf file http://www.asanet.org/sites/default/files/savvy/images/journals/docs/pdf/asr/Feb12ASRFeature.pdf

Type of work: Article (academic)


Conflictology | Sociology


Conflict escalates through a series of feedback loops. On the micro level, conflict generates conditions for intense interaction rituals, and internal solidarity fuels external conflict. Perceived atrocities reciprocally increase ideological polarization between opponents, while confrontational tension/fear makes violence incompetent and produces real atrocities. Conflict groups seek allies, drive out neutrals, and mobilize material resources. Both sides in a conflict counter-escalate through the same set of feedbacks. Winning and losing are determined by differences between rates of escalation and by attacks that one-sidedly destroy organizational and material capacity. Conflict de-escalates because both sides fail to find conditions for solidarity, cannot overcome confrontational tension/fear, and exhaust their material resources. Emotional burnout sets in through a time dynamic of explosion, plateau, and dissipation of enthusiasm. Defection of allies opens the way for third-party settlement. When both sides remain stalemated, initial enthusiasm and external polarization give way to emergent internal factions—a victory faction (hard-liners) versus a peace faction (negotiators)—creating new conflict identities. Ideals promoted at the outset of conflict become obstacles to resolution at the end.