More dangerous than dyads: bargaining and war in multi-actor disputes

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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
Number of pages32
JournalJournal of Theoretical Politics
Early online date18 Jan 2017
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 Jan 2017


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


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Max Gallop

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