STV4325B – The Causes of Political Violence

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

Choose semester

Course content

The study of political violence, defined as organized violence utilized for a political rather than personal economic goal, has changed substantially over the last decade.

As war between states has almost ceased to exist, other forms of political violence has gained more attention.

The course provides an overview of the most important theories on the causes of political violence, and the empirical analyses supporting (or negating) them.

The data from these analyses will be made available for the class. A particular focus will be on the most current topics in the literature and the questions we believe will be important in the years ahead.

Learning outcome


The students will become familiar with:

  • how conflict is defined, operationalized and coded.
  • central theoretical and empirical contributions to the scholarly literature on intrastate, one-sided and non-state conflicts.
  • issues relating to non-state violence, and discuss issues relating to conflicts that do not involve the state as an actor.
  • bargaining and war, where the most important works on bargaining theory and conflict are presented.
  • development and conflict, and discuss issues relating to the role of development in inducing especially civil conflict
  • recent research on non-violent conflict, with a particular focus on non-violence as a strategy for regime-change in dictatorships
  • issues relating to ethnicity, cleavages and conflict, and discuss issues relating to the link between economic inequality, political exclusion, ethnic cleavages and conflict.
  • the research on regimes and conflict, and discuss the connection between regime characteristics, as well as topics relating to the democratic civil peace theory.
  • institutional design and conflict, and discuss the link between specific institutions – with a focus on elections, institutional quality,  and power-sharing institutions – and conflict.
  • the debate about geography and conflict, and be able to discuss geographical and environmental issues, including the debate on climate change and conflict.
  • issues relating to recruitment to war, and discuss how fighting organizations recruit and retain personnel, and what this implies for conflict.


The students will:

  • develop the ability to assess empirical contributions to the literature on armed conflict .
  • develop practical skills in conducting systematic search for literature and data.
  • acquire practical skills in conducting independent empirical study.


The students will:

  • enhance their capability to think critically and reason about central arguments about the causes of armed conflict
  • get a practical problem-driven approach to investigating the causes of conflict


Students who are admitted to study programmes at UiO must each semester register which courses and exams they wish to sign up for in Studentweb.

Students enrolled in other Master's Degree Programmes can, on application, be admitted to the course if this is cleared by their own study programme.

If you are not already enrolled as a student at UiO, please see our information about admission requirements and procedures.

Apply for guest student status if you are admitted to another Master's programme.

For incoming students

All Master's courses in Political Science must be registered manually by the Department, they will not appear in Studentweb. Contact your international coordinator at UiO.


Recommended previous knowledge

Intermediate knowledge of quantitative methods and comparative research designs

Overlapping courses

10 credits overlap with STV4232B – Causes of War (discontinued)


10 lectures will be given. The lectures are held intensively for a period of 5 weeks, with the exam in the sixth week.

Some of the lectures will be given by guest lecturers from the Centre for the Study of Civil War at the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO).


One academic paper (10-15 pages in total), and a 3-hour written exam.

The paper may be written alone or in groups of 2 (20 pages allowed) or 3 (30 pages allowed). In order to receive a passing grade on the essay, your topic will have to reflect the course readings and curriculum. All chosen topics should be approved by the course instructor before the deadline. An essay topic not reflecting the curriculum, will receive a failing grade (F).

The final paper counts 60 percent of the grade, and in order to pass the course, your essay and your written exam must be passed in the same semester as the course is taught. You will receive one overall grade for the course.

Use of sources and citation

You should familiarize yourself with the rules that apply to the use of sources and citations. If you violate the rules, you may be suspected of cheating/attempted cheating.

Examination support material

Students may use dictionaries at this exam. Dictionaries must be handed in before the examination. Please read regulations for dictionaries permitted at the examination.

Language of examination

You may write your examination paper in Norwegian, Swedish, Danish or English.

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a scale from A to F, where A is the best grade and F is a fail. Read more about the grading system.

Explanations and appeals

Ask for explanation of your grade in this course

Resit an examination

If you are sick or have another valid reason for not attending the regular exam, we offer a postponed exam later in the same semester.

See also our information about resitting an exam.

Withdrawal from an examination

It is possible to take the exam up to 3 times. If you withdraw from the exam after the deadline or during the exam, this will be counted as an examination attempt.

Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.


The course is subject to continuous evaluation. At regular intervals we also ask students to participate in a more comprehensive evaluation.

Facts about this course






This course is not given on a regular basis


This course is not given on a regular basis

Teaching language