Analyzing conflict severity: Predictions of distributive justice theory for the two-subgroup case

Guillermina Jasso

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    This paper formulates a model of conflict based on the theory of distributive justice. The model begins with a condition we term cleavage: There is a perfect correlation between the distribution of a valued good and a grouping variable such as race, ethnicity, or sex. Cleavage sets the stage for conflict. Two key elements are specified-conflict severity and subgroup effectiveness-and their mathematical representation described. The paper analyzes the special case where the conflict involves two subgroups, and focuses on conflict severity. Analysis identifies several sources of variability in conflict severity: the relative sizes of the two subgroups; whether the advantaged subgroup is the smaller or larger; whether the collectivity values personal attributes (such as noble birth or athletic skill) or instead values material possessions; and the extent and shape of inequality in the distribution of material possessions. Results indicate, among other things, that, in a collectivity which values personal attributes, the smaller is the disadvantaged subgroup, the greater is the conflict severity. In contrast, in a collectivity which values material wealth, the direction of the effect of subgroup relative size on conflict severity depends on the distributional form of the valued material possessions. Results also indicate that, for given subgroup relative size, conflict severity is higher the greater the inequality in the distribution of valued material possessions.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)357-382
    Number of pages26
    JournalSocial Justice Research
    Issue number4
    StatePublished - Dec 1993


    • income distribution
    • income inequality
    • probability distributions
    • subgroup relative size
    • valued goods

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Anthropology
    • Sociology and Political Science
    • Law


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