Author(s): James B. Rule
Over the years, scholars have proposed numerous theories of violent conflict within states. Probably the most exhaustive review and comparison of these theories is James Rule’s classic book, Theories of Civil Violence.
Rule traces Rational Choice theories of violence from their origins with Thomas Hobbes, through the markedly different perspective of Utilitarians, to the thinking of modern theorists such as Mancur Olson. The rational choice perspective, that citizens make conscious decisions about whether or not to engage in violence based on a cost-benefit analysis, is overly simplistic and unsatisfying. Nevertheless, when examining other theories, it is important to remember that citizens usually do give consideration to the potential negative or positive effects of the violence they engage in. Rule also compares the diametrically opposed explanations for violence offered by Karl Marx and Vilfredo Pareto.