In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section International Conflict Management

  • Introduction

Political Science International Conflict Management
Fen Hampson, Chester Crocker, Pamela Aall, Simon Palamar, Melissa Sinclair
  • LAST REVIEWED: 04 November 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 November 2021
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0012


International conflict management (ICM) studies are focused on applying the insights of theory and research to the understanding and management of actual conflict situations. Theory and research are drawn not only from political science, but also from social psychology, sociology, economics, and law. Because the field is filtered through many differing analytic lenses, ICM theory may appear untidy. Some international relations scholars of a realist persuasion perceive a bias among ICM scholars and practitioners toward peaceful methods of dispute settlement and resolution, one that deliberately and self-consciously eschews the use of force and violence. This translates unfairly to ICM studies being seen as “soft” theoretically, focusing more on application and “statecraft” rather than on contributing to theoretical innovation and advancement of our general understanding of the “root” conflict processes. In fact, ICM research is quite sophisticated and nuanced, honing in both on state-level and group-level motivations and strategies that either exacerbate or mitigate political violence through the use of a wide range of tools, including hard power. This bibliography focuses on two dimensions of the ICM field: sources of conflict and responses to conflict. Of these two dimensions, the academic field of international relations has directed most of its energies to identifying and analyzing the sources of conflict. In recent years, however, attention to responses to conflict has increased, driven by a growing desire among students and faculty, on the one hand, and foreign policymakers and practitioners, on the other, to come up with workable solutions to these seemingly intractable conflagrations. Civil conflicts, internationalized civil wars, terrorism, interstate conflict, proxy wars, and hybrid conflict have presented difficult challenges to practitioners, and have touched the lives of individuals directly or through media networks around the world. In the face of contemporary wars, student and scholarly concern expanded beyond understanding the causes of these conflicts to identifying and applying solutions, from effecting ceasefires to long-term peacebuilding. All sorts of diverse institutions play a role in responding to conflict, and, as such, this bibliography explores many different kinds of institutional capacities, ranging from the use of coercion to diplomatic methods of making or encouraging peace.

General Overviews and Review Essays

Besides drawing from several academic disciplines, ICM as a field of inquiry grapples with interstate, intrastate and transnational conflict, examining responses ranging from the overt use of force to efforts to transform belligerents’ relationships. The following works offer examples of the depth and breadth of the associated scholarship. Levy 1998 offers a concise overview of peace and conflict literature emanating from the political science tradition, whereas Zartman 2007, originally published in 1997, helped to establish ICM as a distinct field of inquiry and remains a solid introduction to the basic methods and techniques of peacemaking. Reflecting on the contributions of Zartman and others, Crocker 2011 offers a review of the first three decades of the professionalization of conflict management as an academic subject and its role as a foreign-policy tool. Today a number of anthologies are available to introduce readers to the historical contours and emerging concerns of ICM. The most comprehensive surveys of relevant theory and practice are provided in Ramsbotham, et al. 2016 and Wallensteen 2019, now in their fourth and fifth editions, respectively. A more concise primer is offered with Greig, et al. 2019, focused more keenly on practice than on theory. Bercovitch, et al. 2009 continues to provide one of the best general overviews of mediation and negotiation as foundational tools of the trade. Oudraat and Brown 2020 explores how gender affects issues of importance to ICM and how conflict dynamics affect gender issues. Finally, our understanding of ICM is given a foundation for the future through the discussion offered in Crocker, et al. 2021 of the diplomatic challenges that conflict management practitioners will face within the context of three alternative scenarios for world order and by the assertion of Slaughter 2017 that managing this future will require navigating a global web of networked relationships. While by no means exhaustive, these works should provide readers with the basic contours of the field. They are illustrative of the variety of perspectives on sources and responses, and they can offer readers a springboard to the broader canon of literature.

  • Bercovitch, Jacob, Victor Kremenyuk, and I. William Zartman, eds. The SAGE Handbook of Conflict Resolution. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2009.

    A very broad and thorough general reader on the relationship between international negotiation processes and conflict management.

  • Crocker, Chester A. “Thoughts on the Conflict Management Field after 30 Years.” International Negotiation 16.1 (2011): 1–10.

    DOI: 10.1163/157180611X553845

    This essay traces trends and milestones in the field as it emerged to become a mainstream feature of academic inquiry and policy concern. It explores the place of conflict resolution management (CRM) in the policy arsenal and the challenges posed by weak states, fragile settlements, and the growing impact of armed nonstate actors.

  • Greig, J. Michael, Andrew P. Owsiak, and Paul Diehl. International Conflict Management. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2019.

    An introduction to the varied approaches and factors that promote the de-escalation and the peaceful management of conflict with individual chapters dedicated to intervention, sanctions, negotiations, mediation, legal approaches, and peace operations. The authors’ innovative trajectory concept, introduced in the final chapter, captures the complementary and contradictory ways in which these approaches interact and proposes guidelines for the timing of their use.

  • Levy, Jack S. “Causes of War and Conditions of Peace.” Annual Review of Political Science 1 (1998): 139–162.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev.polisci.1.1.139

    Modeled on the work of Kenneth Waltz that defined a levels-of-analysis approach to the study of conflict, this essay provides an excellent example of how the different levels of analysis can be used to organize and make sense of the field.

  • Oudraat, Chantal de Jonge, and Michael Brown. The Gender and Security Agenda: Strategies for the 21st Century. New York: Routledge, 2020.

    DOI: 10.4324/9781003030232

    An edited volume that examines the gendered aspects of a wide range of security challenges within the context of ten issue areas to include armed conflict, post-conflict, terrorism, and governance.

  • Ramsbotham, Oliver, Tom Woodhouse, and Hugh Miall. Contemporary Conflict Resolution: The Prevention, Management and Transformation of Deadly Conflicts. 4th ed. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2016.

    Comprehensive overview of the field that sets out the case for what the authors call cosmopolitan conflict resolution.

  • Slaughter, Ann-Marie. The Chessboard and the Web: Strategies of Connection in a Networked World. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2017.

    Using network theory, the author presents strategies to confront today’s security challenges by looking not at individual entities but rather at their links to one another.

  • Wallensteen, Peter. Understanding Conflict Resolution. 5th ed. Los Angeles: SAGE, 2019.

    A 450-page orientation to the empirically based study of peace and conflict, now in its fifth edition. The current edition includes a section on contemporary challenges like climate change, nuclear winter, terrorism, and women’s empowerment.

  • Zartman, I. William, ed. Peacemaking in International Conflict. Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace, 2007.

    A classic introduction to the methods and techniques of peacemaking, including the often-cited chapter by Kriesberg on the establishment and growth of conflict resolution as a distinct field of study and practice.

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