More dangerous than dyads: how a third party enables rationalist explanations for war

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For the bargaining model of war, in the absence of incomplete information and commitment problems, war is irrational. But this finding rests on a simple and rarely dis- cussed assumption – that bargaining is between exactly two participants. When we relax this assumption, in a three-player bargaining game, war is an equilibrium. Thus, a key finding of the bargaining model – that there is always an agreement that all states prefer to war – is an artifact of dyadic analysis. By removing this limitation, we can find new factors that affect the risk of war: the number of actors, divergence in state preferences, alliance dynamics, and the issue being bargained over.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)353-381
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Theoretical Politics
Issue number3
Early online date18 Jan 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2017


  • war
  • bargaining model
  • dyadic analysis
  • alliance dynamics
  • state preferences
  • international conflicts
  • militarized interstate disputes
  • international relations
  • dyads

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