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Conflict Economics and Psychological Human Needs

Thomas Gries and Veronika Müller ()
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Veronika Müller: Paderborn University

No 135, Working Papers CIE from Paderborn University, CIE Center for International Economics

Abstract: The basic approach in conflict economics, to explain motives and conditions for civil strife, is based on the assumption of choice. Wars, civil conflicts, or terrorism are thus analyzed as outcomes of goal-driven choices according to underlying incentives and constraints. Because conflict involves choices between nonviolent and violent alternatives, it is perceived as a pure result of strategic choice – that is, calculated, rational thinking with the aim to achieve profitable ends. While this would imply that rational agents are primarily motivated by material gains, we argue that individuals may also join groups and use violence for psychological reasons – and this choice is not subject to irrationality. Factors such as group belongingness, threat, a shared group-identity, and self-esteem are important determinants in explaining violent mobilization. In this regard, the current paper postulates that agents make foremost choices in order to serve their mental preferences, or in psychological terms, their fundamental human needs, i.e. needs that address the human drive to survive, to understand and control their environment, to find their role and purpose in life, and to feel accepted and efficacious in their choices and actions. We reviewed a vast amount of interdisciplinary literature and identified three need dimensions: existential, relational, and self-related human needs. Each of these needs is shaped by internal determinants, such as agent´s dispositions, and by external determinants, such as economic, social, political, or environmental factors. Therefore, to properly understand why individuals join rebel groups and are willing to accept a high level of personal risk to advance their groups´ goals, we have to consider, beyond economic incentives, also their psychological human needs.

Keywords: Conflict economics; Psychological human needs; Reconciliation; Individual decision-making (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: D74 D91 I31 Z1 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 108 pages
Date: 2020-09
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-cbe, nep-cdm and nep-neu
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