This course focuses on the conflicts over scarce resources in developing countries. The collapse of the former Soviet Union (currently CIS with Russia as a core state) and end of the Cold War in the early 1990s raised people’s expectations regarding the future. However, over the years, although the number of international conflicts or proxy wars has gradually decreased, risks of internal conflicts or civil wars have greatly increased. Some examples are Africa; People’s Republic of Congo; Sierra Leone; Nigeria; Cote d’Ivoire; the Middle East and North Africa; Afghanistan; Iraq; Syria; and, more recently, Tunisia and Egypt, which are among the countries that experienced violence in the post–Cold War period following the “Arab Spring” in the 2010s. They are extremely vulnerable to the risks posed by wars and conflicts. Many of the war-driven nations are referred to as “failed states” or “fragile states” since they do not have the basic structure of a nation or they have lost their basic structure. Institutions that establish rights to resources and delineate the rules of a society are stressed in civil wars. Some of these countries are rich in natural resources and, hence, poverty was not the cause of conflict. In many countries, their rich resource base became a target of conflict.
Wars destroy the physical capital of a country by demanding an increase in the national resources that must be devoted to “guns rather than butter” or in military rather than nonmilitary expenditures. In such regions, lawlessness is prevalent and social norms of behavior are violated.
In this course, strategic decisions over conflicting parties are presented as a conceptual model using the standard 2 × 2 game theoretical framework. No prior exposure to game theory or microeconomics is assumed, and students are given sufficient time to familiarize themselves with numerical exercises to completely understand and practice game theory. Hence, the first several sessions of this course will be spent entirely on the introduction and practice of game theory, and home assignments will be given to ensure that students are prepared to understand the conceptual framework.
Once the preparatory sessions on game theory are completed, students are expected to learn an actual case study on conflicts that occurred during the past two decades and use the game theoretical framework to conceptualize them within the given context. It is noted that not all wars pertain to maximizing the resource base; some conflicts are ethnically or religiously oriented. In this course, we attempt to provide game theoretical interpretations of different types of conflicts over resources.
Finally, students are expected to present their term paper on the case study, using the game theoretical framework. Cases may be drawn from a wide range of social development and conflict topics and, by the middle of the semester, the student can decide on the exact topic after consultation with the instructor.
Learning outcomes of the course
Students should be able to use game theoretical tools to understand strategic decisions over conflicting interests in developing countries.
Teaching and evaluation methods (Seminar style)
Class participation: 20%
Weekly assignments: 20%
Final paper and presentation: 60%
Collier, Paul (2007), The Bottom Billion, Oxford University Press.
World Bank (various years), World Development Report, Oxford University Press.
Wydick, Bruce (2008), Games in Economic Development, Cambridge University Press.
Complete reading materials will be distributed in class.
No preliminary knowledge is required.