This study seeks to persuade the reader that students of political violence should shift their focus away from nomological explanations of violent political conflict sui generis. Instead, scholars should concentrate on theoretically demarcating specific types of violent political conflict. Alas, we do not offer a new typology in this paper; rather, we seek to explain an anomaly in the political violence literature: the contradictory set of findings in statistical studies of the relationship between economic inequality and violent political conflict. We contend that contradictory findings exist because some scholars have included cases in their studies where different conflict processes have produced violence in different countries. When these different cases are treated as if they are equivalent in a cross-sectional study, it is not surprising that the studies produce inconsistent findings. We suggest that the positive findings in these studies are most likely spurious. To systematically explore our contention, we use both statistical and descriptive-historical methods to examine the impact that land reforms had on political violence in Chile, Cuba and the Philippines. Our statistical analyses demonstrate that a positive relationship between agrarian inequality and political violence does not exist while our qualitative analyses show that the issue of land inequality is not necessarily relevant to understanding the conflict process in these cases, even though these cases were included in past cross-national studies. We conclude the paper with a discussion of future directions in which students of violent political conflict should focus their efforts.
- Economic inequality
- Political violence
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Political Science and International Relations