IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

A Theory of Brinkmanship, Conflicts, and Commitments

  • Schwarz, Michael
  • Sonin, Konstantin

Many conflicts and negotiations can be viewed as a dynamic game, where parties have no commitment power. In our model, a potential aggressor demands concessions from the weaker party by threatening a war. The absence of commitment makes a continuous stream of transfers a more effective appeasement strategy than a lump sum transfer. Based on such a strategy, it is possible to construct a self-enforcing peace agreement between risk-neutral parties, even if transfers shift the balance of power. When parties are risk-averse, a self-enforcing peace agreement may not be feasible. The bargaining power of the potential aggressor increases dramatically if she is able to make probabilistic threats, e.g. by taking an observable action that leads to war with positive probability. This ‘brinkmanship strategy’ allows a blackmailer to extract a positive stream of payments from the victim even if carrying out the threat is harmful to both parties. Our results are applicable to environments ranging from diplomacy to negotiations within or among firms, and are aimed to bring together ‘parallel’ investigations in the nature of commitment in economics and political science.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: CEPR Discussion Papers are free to download for our researchers, subscribers and members. If you fall into one of these categories but have trouble downloading our papers, please contact us at

As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 5075.

in new window

Date of creation: May 2005
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:5075
Contact details of provider: Postal: Centre for Economic Policy Research, 77 Bastwick Street, London EC1V 3PZ.
Phone: 44 - 20 - 7183 8801
Fax: 44 - 20 - 7183 8820

Order Information: Email:

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Sandeep Baliga & Tomas Sjostrom, 2001. "Arms Races and Negotiations," Levine's Working Paper Archive 391749000000000005, David K. Levine.
  2. Shavell Steven & Spier Kathryn E., 2002. "Threats Without Binding Commitment," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 2(1), pages 1-11, January.
  3. L. Wade, 1988. "Review," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 58(1), pages 99-100, July.
  4. Rajan, Raghuram G. & Zingales, Luigi, 2000. "The tyranny of inequality," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 76(3), pages 521-558, June.
  5. Alastair Smith & Allan C. Stam, 2004. "Bargaining and the Nature of War," Journal of Conflict Resolution, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 48(6), pages 783-813, December.
  6. Fearon, James D., 1995. "Rationalist explanations for war," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 49(03), pages 379-414, June.
  7. Daron Acemoglu & James A. Robinson, 2002. "Economic Backwardness in Political Perspective," NBER Working Papers 8831, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Steven Shavell & Kathryn Spier, 1995. "Threats Without Binding Commitment," Discussion Papers 1139, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  9. Becker, Gary S, 1983. "A Theory of Competition among Pressure Groups for Political Influence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 98(3), pages 371-400, August.
  10. Avinash Dixit & Gene M. Grossman & Faruk Gul, 2000. "The Dynamics of Political Compromise," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(3), pages 531-568, June.
  11. Jack Hirshleifer, 2001. "Appeasement: Can It Work?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(2), pages 342-346, May.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:5075. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ()

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.