Paul R. Hensel (1996), The Evolution of Interstate Rivalry. Ph.D. dissertation, Department of Political Science, University of Illinois.

In this dissertation I study the evolution of interstate rivalry, seeking to identify situations or behaviors that lead to rivalry. Past research suggests that most interstate conflict occurs between long-time rival countries, and that crises occurring in the context of enduring rivalry tend to be more escalatory than other crises. Existing research on rivalry, though, has focused on the dynamics of already-established rivalry. Little is known about how adversaries come to treat each other as long-term rivals.

I propose an evolutionary model of interstate rivalry that treats rivalry as a dynamic, evolving process, rather than a static, post-hoc classification as in most existing research. My empirical analyses show that the immediate rivalry context in which a confrontation takes place influences both conflict behavior during the confrontation and subsequent relations between the adversaries. Conflict behavior between two adversaries tends to become more escalatory later in their rivalry relationship, and future conflict between them becomes increasingly likely as their rivalry relationship evolves.

I present a series of hypotheses to account for the evolution of rivalry, based on characteristics of the adversaries, interactions between them, and the immediate context of their relations. I test these hypotheses statistically with logistic regression and event history analysis, and use several case studies to provide a more detailed understanding of the evolution of rivalry. Dispute outcomes, contentious issues, relative capabilities, and dyadic democracy all affect the likelihood of recurrence, but these factors are less likely to end a period of rivalry as rivalry evolves. As two adversaries accumulate a longer history of conflict, their rivalry relationship tends to become "locked in" or entrenched, with future conflict becoming increasingly likely. These results offer substantial support for an evolutionary approach to the study of interstate conflict and rivalry. I conclude by discussing the implications of my results for policy and for further scholarly research.


This dissertation received the Walter Isard Award for Best Dissertation in Peace Science, 1995-1996, as awarded by the Peace Science Society (International).


The author does not have any spare copies of the dissertation to hand out. Interested readers are advised to contact University Microfilms International (UMI) at Ann Arbor, Michigan, to purchase a copy.
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