Skip to main content

A Plague of Initials: Fragmentation, Cohesion, and Infighting in Civil Wars

  • Kristin M. Bakke (a1), Kathleen Gallagher Cunningham (a2) and Lee J. M. Seymour (a3)

How do we conceptualize the fragmentation of internally divided movements? And how does variation in fragmentation affect the probability and patterns of infighting? The internal politics of non-state groups have received increasing attention, with recent research demonstrating the importance of cohesion and fragmentation for understanding conflict dynamics. Yet there is little consensus on how to conceptualize fragmentation, the concept at the center of this agenda, with authors using different definitions and measures. In this paper we conceptualize fragmentation along three constitutive dimensions: the number of organizations in the movement; the degree of institutionalization across these organizations; and the distribution of power among them. We then show how variation across these dimensions can explain variation in important conflict processes, focusing on infighting.

Hide All
Ahlquist John. 2010. “Building Strategic Capacity: The Political Underpinnings of Coordinated Wage Bargaining.” American Political Science Review 104(1): 171–88.
Almond Gabriel A. 1958. “Research Note: A Comparative Study of Interest Groups and the Political Process.” American Political Science Review 52(1): 270282.
Anderson Benedict. 1983. Imagined Communities. London: Verso.
Asal Victor, Brown Mitchell, and Dalton Angela. Forthcoming. “Why Split? Organizational Splits among Ethno-Political Organizations in the Middle East.” Journal of Conflict Resolution.
Atlas Pierre M., and Licklider Roy. 1999. “Conflict among Former Allies after Civil War: Sudan, Zimbabwe, Chad, and Lebanon.” Journal of Peace Research 36(1): 3554.
Baldwin David. 2002. “Power and International Relations.” In Handbook of International Relations, eds. Carlsnaes Walter, Risse Thomas and Simmons Beth. London: Sage Publications.
Barnett Michael, and Duvall Raymond. 2005. “Power in International Politics.” International Organization 59(1): 3975.
Benford Robert D. 1993. “Frame Disputes within the Nuclear Disarmament Movement.” Social Forces 71(3): 677701
Biddle Stephen. 2006. Military Power: Explaining Victory and Defeat in Modern Battle. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Bloom Mia M. 2003. “Ethnic Conflict, State Terror and Suicide Bombing in Sri Lanka.” Civil Wars 6(1): 5484.
Bloom Mia M. 2004. “Palestinian Suicide Bombing: Public Support, Market Share, and Outbidding.” Political Science Quarterly 119(1): 6188.
Brooks Risa, and Stanley Elizabeth, eds. 2007. Creating Military Power: The Sources of Military Effectiveness. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Brubaker Rogers. 2004. Ethnicity without Groups. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Brumfiel Elizabeth, and Fox John, eds. 2003. Factional Competition and Political Development in the New World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Bujra Janet. 1973. “The Dynamics of Political Action: A New Look at Factionalism.” American Anthropologist 75(1): 132152.
Bunce Valerie. 1999. Subversive Institutions: The Design and the Destruction of Socialism and the State. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Butler Christopher, Carey Sabine, and Mitchell Neil. 2011. “Delegating Repression: Pro-Government Militias and Human Rights Violations” (working paper, University of New Mexico, University of Mannheim, and University College London).
Cederman Lars-Erik. 2008. “Articulating the Geo-Cultural Logic of Nationalist Insurgency.” In Order, Conflict, and Violence, eds. Kalyvas Stathis, Shapiro Ian, and Masoud Tarek. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Chandra Kanchan. 2004. Why Ethnic Parties Succeed: Patronage and Ethnic Head Counts in India. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Checkel Jeff, ed. Forthcoming. Transnational Dynamics of Civil War. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Christia Fotini, and Semple Michael. 2009. “Flipping the Taliban: How To Win in Afghanistan.” Foreign Affairs 88(34): 3445.
Collier David, and Gerring John. 2009. Concepts and Method in Social Science: The Tradition of Giovanni Sartori. London: Routledge.
Collier Paul, and Hoeffler Anke. 2004. “Greed and Grievance in Civil War.” Oxford Economic Papers 56(4): 563595.
Cunningham David. 2006. “Veto Players and Civil War Duration.” American Journal of Political Science 50(4): 875892.
Cunningham David., Gleditsch Kristian Skrede, and Salehyan Idean. 2009. “It Takes Two: A Dyadic Analysis of Civil War Duration and Outcome.” Journal of Conflict Resolution 53(4): 570597.
Cunningham Kathleen Gallagher. 2007. Divided and Conquered: Why States and Self-Determination Groups Fail in Bargaining Over Autonomy. PhD diss., University of California, San Diego.
Cunningham Kathleen Gallagher. 2011. “Divide and Conquer or Divide and Concede: How Do States Respond to Internally Divided Separatists?American Political Science Review 105(2): 275297.
Cunningham Kathleen Gallagher., Bakke Kristin M., and Seymour Lee J. M.. Forthcoming. “Shirts Today, Skins Tomorrow: Dual Contests and the Effects of Fragmentation in Self-Determination Conflicts.” Journal of Conflict Resolution.
Doyle Michael, and Sambanis Nicolas. 2000. “International Peacebuilding: A Theoretical and Quantitative Analysis.” American Political Science Review 94(4): 779801.
Dunlop John B. 1998. Russia Confronts Chechnya: Roots of a Separatist Conflict. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Duverger Maurice. 1963. Political Parties: Their Organization and Activity in the Modern State. New York: Taylor and Francis.
Ellis Stephen, and Sechaba Tsebo. 1992. Comrades against Apartheid: The ANC and the South African Communist Party in Exile. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.
Fagan Jeffrey. 1989. “The Social Organization of Drug Use and Drug Dealing among Urban Gangs.” Criminology 27(4): 663669.
Fearon James D., and Laitin David D.. 1996. “Explaining Interethnic Cooperation.” American Political Science Review 90(4): 715735.
Fearon James D., and Laitin David D.. 2003. “Ethnicity, Insurgency, and Civil War.” American Political Science Review 97(1): 7590.
Filippov Mikhail, Ordeshook Peter C., and Shvetsova Olga. 2004. Designing Federalism: A Theory of Self-Sustainable Federal Institutions. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Findley Michael, and Rudloff Peter J.. Forthcoming. “Combatant Fragmentation and the Dynamics of Civil War.” British Journal of Political Science.
Flint Julie, and de Waal Alex. 2008. Darfur: A New History of a Long War. London: Zed Books.
Gates Scott. 2002. “Recruitment and Allegiance: The Microfoundations of Rebellion.” Journal of Conflict Resolution 46(1): 111130.
George Alexander L., and Bennett Andrew. 2004. Case Studies and Theory Development in the Social Sciences. Cambridge: MIT Press.
Goertz Gary. 2006. Social Science Concepts: A User's Guide. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Greenhill Kelly M., and Major Solomon. 2007. “The Perils of Profiling: Civil War Spoilers and the Collapse of Intrastate Peace Accords.” International Security 31(3): 740.
Hale Henry. 2008. The Foundations of Ethnic Politics: Separatism of States and Nations in Eurasia and the World. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Horowitz Donald 1985 Ethnic groups in conflict. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Iyob Ruth. 1997. The Eritrean Struggle for Independence: Domination, Resistance, Nationalism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Jankowski Martin Sanchez. 1991. Islands in the Street: Gangs and American Urban Society. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Johnson Douglas. 2003. The Root Causes of Sudan's Civil Wars. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Johnston Patrick. 2007. “Negotiated Settlements and Government Strategy in Civil War: Evidence from Darfur.” Civil Wars 9(4): 359377.
Judah Tim. 2002. Kosovo: War and Revenge. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Kalyvas Stathis N. 2003. “The Ontology of Political Violence: Action and Identity in Civil Wars.” Perspectives on Politics 1(3): 475494.
Kalyvas Stathis N. 2008. “Ethnic Defection in Civil War.” Comparative Political Studies 41(8): 10431068.
Kenny Paul. 2010. “Structural Integrity and Cohesion in Armed Organizations: Evidence from Protracted Conflicts in Ireland and Burma.” International Studies Review 12(4): 533555.
Koopmans Ruud. 1993. “The Dynamics of Protest Waves: West Germany, 1865–1989.” American Sociological Review 59(5): 637658.
Lawrence Adria. 2010. “Triggering Nationalist Violence: Competition and Conflict in Uprisings against Colonial Rule.” International Security 35(2): 88122.
Lyall Jason. 2010. “Are Coethnics More Effective Counterinsurgents? Evidence from the Second Chechen War.” American Political Science Review 104(1): 120.
McCarthy John D., and Zald Mayer N.. 1977. “Resource Mobilization and Social Movements: A Partial Theory.” American Journal of Sociology 82(6): 12121241.
McColl Robert W. 1969. “The Insurgent State: Territorial Bases of Revolution.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 59(4): 613631.
McLauchlin Theodore, and Pearlman Wendy. 2012. “Out-Group Conflict, In-Group Unity?: Exploring the Effect of Repression on Intramovement Cooperation.” Journal of Conflict Resolution 56(1): 4166.
Nilsson Desirée. 2008. “Partial Peace: Rebel Groups Inside and Outside of Civil War Settlements.” Journal of Peace Research 45(4): 479495.
North Douglass. 1990. Institutions, Institutional Change, and Economic Performance. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Olson Mancur. 1982. The Rise and Decline of Nations. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Orwell George. 2003. Homage to Catalonia. New York: Penguin Books.
Pearlman Wendy. 2009. “Spoiling Inside and Out: Internal Political Contestation and the Middle East Peace Process.” International Security 33(3): 79109.
Pearlman Wendy. 2011. Violence, Nonviolence, and the Palestinian National Movement. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Pearlman Wendy., and Cunningham Kathleen Gallagher. Forthcoming. “Nonstate Actors, Fragmentation and Conflict Processes.” Journal of Conflict Resolution.
Petersen Roger. 2002. Understanding Ethnic Violence. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Posen Barry. 1993. “The Security Dilemma and Ethnic Conflict.” In Ethnic Conflict and International Security, ed. Browned Michael. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Posner Daniel N. 2005. Institutions and Ethnic Politics in Africa. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Prunier Gérard. 2008. Darfur: A 21st Century Genocide. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Reno William. 2011. Warfare in Independent Africa. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Roeder Philip. 2007. Where Nation-States Come From: Institutional Change in the Age of Nationalism. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Sakwa Richard. 2011. The Crisis of Russian Democracy: The Dual State, Factionalism and the Medvedev Succession. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Sartori Giovanni. 1970. “Concept Misformation in Comparative Politics.” American Political Science Review 64(4): 10331053.
Shih Victor. 2009. Factions and Finance in China: Elite Conflict and Inflation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Siegal Bernard, and Biels Alan. 1960. “Conflict and Factionalist Dispute.” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 90(1): 107117.
Simmel Georg. 1955. Conflict and the Web of Group-Affiliations. New York: Free Press.
Simon Herbert A. 1953. “Notes on the Observation and Measurement of Political Power.” Journal of Politics 15(4): 500516.
Sinno Abdulkader H. 2008. Organizations at War in Afghanistan and Beyond. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Smith Chris. 2009. “LTTE: A Movement of Liberation and National Oppression.” In Armed Militias of South Asia, eds. Gayer Laurent and Jaffrelot Cristophe. New York: Columbia University Press.
Snyder Timothy. 2010. Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin. New York: Basic Books.
Staggenborg Suzanne. 1986. “Coalition Work in the Pro-Choice Movement: Organizational and Environmental Opportunities and Obstacles.” Social Problems 33(5): 374390.
Staniland Paul. 2009. Networks of Rebellion: Explaining Insurgent Cohesion and Collapse. PhD diss., Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Staniland Paul. Forthcoming. “Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Insurgent Fratricide, Ethnic Defection, and the Rise of Pro-State Paramilitaries.” Journal of Conflict Resolution.
Stedman John Stephen. 1997. “Spoiler Problems in Peace Processes.” International Security 22(2): 553.
Stein Arthur A. 1976. “Conflict and Cohesion: A Review of the Literature.” Journal of Conflict Resolution 20(1): 143172.
Tanner Victor, and Tubiana Jerôme. 2007. “Divided They Fall: The Fragmentation of Darfur's Rebel Groups” (working paper #6, Small Arms Survey/Sudan Human Security Baseline Assessment).
Tarrow Sidney. 1998. Power in Movement: Social Movements and Contentious Politics. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Tarrow Sidney. 2007. “Inside Insurgencies: Politics and Violence in an Age of Civil War.” Perspectives on Politics 5(3): 587600.
Tilly Charles. 2004. Social Movements: 1768–2004. New York: Paradigm Publishers.
Tishkov Valery. 2004. Chechnya: Life in a War-Torn Society. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Toft Monica Duffy. 2003. The Geography of Ethnic Violence: Identity, Interests, and the Indivisibility of Territory. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Varshney Ashutosh. 2002. Ethnic Conflict and Civic Life. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Varshney Ashutosh. 2003. “Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict and Rationality.” Perspectives on Politics 1(1): 8599.
Walter Barbara F. 2002. Committing to Peace: The Successful Settlement of Civil Wars. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Walter Barbara F. 2006. “Building Reputation: Why Governments Fight Some Separatists but Not Others.” American Journal of Political Science 50(2): 313330.
Walter Barbara F., and Kydd Andrew. 2002. “Sabotaging the Peace: The Politics of Extremist Violence.” International Organization 56(2): 263296.
Wedeen Lisa. 2008. Peripheral Visions: Publics, Power, and Performance in Yemen. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Weinstein Jeremy. 2007. Inside Rebellion: The Politics of Insurgent Violence. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Weintraub Michael. 2011. “Fighting Together: Rebel Group Alliances in Civil War.” Presented at the International Studies Association Annual Meeting, Montréal, Quebec, March 16–19.
Wimmer Andreas. 2008. “The Making and Unmaking of Ethnic Boundaries: A Multilevel Process Theory.” American Journal of Sociology 113(4): 9701022.
Wood Elisabeth. 2009. “Armed Groups and Sexual Violence: When Is Wartime Rape Rare?Politics and Society 37(1): 131161.
Wood Reed. 2010. “Rebel Capability and Strategic Violence against Civilians.” Journal of Peace Research 47(5): 601614.
Yablonsky Lewis. 1959. “The Delinquent Gang as a Near-Group.” Social Problems 7(2): 108117.
Zald Mayer N., and McCarthy John D.. 1980. “Social Movement Industries: Competition and Cooperation among Movement Organizations.” In Research in Social Movements, Conflict and Change, ed. Kriesberg Louis. Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.
Zariski Raphael. 1960. “Party Factions and Comparative Politics: Some Preliminary Observations.” Midwest Journal of Political Science 4(1): 2751.
Zuckerman Yitzhak. 1993. A Surplus of Memory: A Chronicle of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Zürcher Christopher. 2007. The Post-Soviet Wars: Rebellion, Ethnic Conflict and Nationhood in the Caucasus. New York: New York University Press.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Perspectives on Politics
  • ISSN: 1537-5927
  • EISSN: 1541-0986
  • URL: /core/journals/perspectives-on-politics
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 15
Total number of PDF views: 418 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 1301 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 24th February 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.