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Faculty of Economics

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Jennings, C.

Rationalising 'Irrational' Support for Political Violence


Abstract: This paper provides a rationale for group support for political violence in situations where violence does not provide a material benefit. Rabin’s (1993) theory of fairness is adopted to demonstrate that although group violence may not be the equilibrium of a material game it may be a fairness equilibrium in a game containing psychological payoffs. For this to happen the material stakes must be perceived as low and psychological payoffs are expressive. Although the material stakes are actually high, members of each group may choose expressively to support the use of violence because the probability of being decisive is low. The paper also considers the possibility of peace emerging as a fairness equilibrium. This can only happen if each group perceives the other as making some sacrifice in choosing peace.

Keywords: Conflict, emotions, reciprocity, expressive, rhetoric

JEL Codes: D72 D74


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