Date of Award


Document type


Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


First Advisor

Peter Skott

Second Advisor

Samuel Bowles

Third Advisor

Luc Rey-Bellet

Subject Categories

Economic Theory | Political Economy | Public Economics


Conflict theory has in recent years found important applications and made contributions in fields such as economics, political sciences and evolutionary biology. Economists have examined various aspects and implications of appropriation, a typical example of conflicting economic interests, in rent-seeking models. Political scientists, focusing on political turmoil such as war, civil war and demonstration, have scrutinized the effects of conflictual outcomes on political transitions and political systems. More importantly, early human lethal conflict is being recognized as a key factor in explaining human cooperation in evolutionary biology. The first essay concerns the technical aspects of conflict theories. Two well-known forms of contest success functions predict contest outcomes from the difference between the resources of each side and from the ratio of resources. The analytical properties of a given conflict model, such as the existence of equilibrium, can be drastically changed simply by altering the form of the contest success function. Despite this problem, there is no consensus about which form is analytically better or empirically more plausible. In this essay we propose an integrated form of contest success functions which has the ratio form and the difference form as limiting cases and study the analytical properties of this function. We also estimate different contest success functions to see which form is more empirically probable, using data from battles fought in seventeenth-century Europe and during World War II. In the second essay we explore the application of conflict theory to the collective action problem in large groups. We examine critically the traditional understanding of the role of large groups in collective action using an idea initiated in evolutionary biology. Bingham uses Lanchester's square law to claim that the remote killing ability of humans and their precursors decreases the cost of punishment, when cheating behavior can be punished by other members. By modeling this technology and incorporating individual members' choice of behavior types, we show that as long as the defector is, even slightly, less collective than the punisher, the large group effect pervades. So we may conclude that the large group effect is quite robust, considering the fact that the defectors, because of their behavioral predisposition, would be reluctant to cooperate in any type of collective action. In the final essay we address conflict and cooperation from a slightly different perspective: conflict and cooperation associated with class alliances and conflict in a society. Economic and political problems have been examined primarily within the context of a dyadic relationship, i.e. between two actors. However, when two different categories of groups are considered, subgroups within these groups may have both common interests and conflicts. Appropriative activity by a ruling class of capitalists and landlords gives rise to class conflict between the ruling class and the ruled class. The struggle over the relative price between the goods of the urban manufacturing sector and the products of the agricultural sector can divide the ruling and ruled classes and unite the capitalists and the workers. Using coalitional game theory, we study the various conditions, such as the political strength of one class relative to that of other classes and the degree of economic conflict among classes, for coalition formation among these classes. We show that when the economic conflict over tariffs and the rate of appropriation escalates and one class is politically superior to others, the exclusion of that class might occur, so the originally strong class can end up being disadvantaged.