Why do civil wars occur? Understanding the importance of institutional quality


As states get stronger, they are expected to be more successful in preventing insurgency and, in turn, the occurrence of civil wars. While intuitively appealing, the theoretical and empirical understanding of the linkage between state capacity and civil war onset remains at an early stage of development. To date, the role of state capacity has been conceptualised and measured in limited ways that focus mainly on the repressive ability of the state. In this paper, we broaden the understanding of state capacity by incorporating an important but neglected dimension; institutional quality. We examine the relationship between institutional quality and civil war onset and argue that states characterised with high institutional quality are less likely to experience civil war. Analysis of cross-national time-series data from 1984 to 1999 reveals that the quality of institutions, defined as freedom from corruption in government, rule of law, and bureaucratic quality, plays a significant role in explaining the likelihood of civil war onset. © 2010 Taylor & Francis.

Publication Title

Civil Wars