Killing civilians in civil war: The rationale of indiscriminate violence

Release date: 2020-04

Indiscriminate violence against civilians is a recurrent phenomenon in armed conflicts. However, from a social science perspective this type of violence poses a puzzle.  Government and non-government indiscriminate violence is often assumed to have counterproductive effect and to be ultimately self-defeating. Yet, this begs the question as to why an actor should use indiscriminate violence at all?
Jürgen Brandsch's book seeks to close this knowledge gap by providing two simple propositions. First, it is acknowledged that indiscriminate violence can produce two types of effects, counterproductive and coercive, at the same time. But their respective strength depends on the circumstances. The theory put forth integrates both effects into one framework in order to assess whether the perpetrator is able to achieve a positive overall effect. Second, and perhaps counterintuitively, Jürgen Brandsch points out that the purpose of violence may not be coercing the group targeted with violence. Currently, much of the literature on indiscriminate violence assumes that violence against one group seeks to coerce that same group. However, perpetrators may be interested in communicating to a wider audience that goes well beyond the targeted group.The book shows that widening our view of potential targets of coercion helps us to understand the gains that can be derived from violence. In short: we need to stand right back to see both a wider and a deeper landscape of possibility.

Please find the book here.