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

  • Introduction
  • Managing the Conflict Life Cycle

Political Science International Conflict Management
Fen Hampson, Chester Crocker, Pamela Aall, Simon Palamar
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 September 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 November 2011
  • 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. The unceasing breakout of internal conflicts in the 1990s may have presented very difficult challenges to practitioners, but they also touched the lives of individuals around the world as the news networks reported on mass civilian killings in Rwanda, Bosnia, Liberia, and Sierra Leone (among others). In the face of these contemporary wars, student and faculty concern expanded beyond understanding the causes of these conflicts to identifying and applying solutions. 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

As discussed in the Introduction, ICM as a field of inquiry draws from several academic disciplines and grapples not just with interstate conflict but with intrastate as well, 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 conflict analysis and resolution field. Levy 1998 offers a concise overview of literature emanating from the political science tradition, while Crocker, et al. 2007 and Crocker, et al. 2001 demonstrate the range of the field and deal largely with contemporary and emerging concerns. Bercovitch, et al. 2009 provides a good general overview of the fields of mediation and negotiation, while Brown 1997 provides a nice survey of theories of civil war. Crocker 2011 offers a brief history of conflict management as an academic subject and its role as a foreign-policy tool. 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.

  • Brown, Michael E., ed. The International Dimensions of Internal Conflict. Cambridge, MA, and London: MIT Press, 1997.

    This volume examines the complex interplay between civil conflict and cross-border and international forces.

  • Crocker, Chester A. “Thoughts on the Conflict Management Field after 25 Years.” International Negotiation 16.1 (2011).

    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.

  • Crocker, Chester A., Fen Osler Hampson, and Pamela Aall, eds. Turbulent Peace: The Challenges of Managing International Conflict. Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace, 2001.

    The predecessor to Crocker, et al. 2007, this volume is concerned with the challenges of humanitarian intervention and the difficulties in reaching a sustainable peace, providing a vivid illustration of the range of debate about when and how to intervene appropriately.

  • Crocker, Chester A., Fen Osler Hampson, and Pamela Aall, eds. Leashing the Dogs of War: Conflict Management in a Divided World. Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace, 2007.

    A broad collection of essays chiefly concerned with whether powerful states and international organizations can simultaneously conduct a war on terrorism and conflict management policies in zones of conflict. The range of responses mirrors the variety of responses to conflict identified in this bibliography.

  • 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 by 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.

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