In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Bargaining Theory of War

  • Introduction
  • Formal Models of Bargaining

International Relations Bargaining Theory of War
William Reed, Katherine Sawyer
  • LAST REVIEWED: 07 May 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 April 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199743292-0040


Much of the recent scholarship on international politics views conflict and cooperation arising from a bargaining process. Thinking about international politics in this way has paid a number of dividends. First, conceptualizing international interactions as a bargaining process has helped researchers organize a wealth of explanations for conflict and cooperation under two general categories. Conflict and cooperation are seen to arise from either information asymmetries or the inability to commit to any bargained outcome. This organizing principle has enabled researchers who are studying various international outcomes to better communicate their theoretical expectations across issue areas. In addition, by using a common framework, research has been better able to build cumulatively. Part of this cumulative growth has been seen in the numerous additional empirical implications that have been drawn out of the bargaining approach. Bargaining theory truly has revolutionized the scholarly study of international politics. This article focuses primarily on bargaining between two actors where the first actor makes a continuous demand from the second actor, who must respond by accepting the demand, rejecting the demand, or making a counteroffer.

General Overviews

Although a few early manuscripts began to frame war within a bargaining context, the foundational literatures for bargaining theory did not exist until the 1960s and 1970s. The 1990s saw a plethora of developments within the formal modeling of bargaining theory. These sections provide a description of the pivotal early books in the field as well as journal article reviews of the literature.

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