Issue Indivisibility as a Cause of Peace


Abstract: By pessimistic accounts, issue indivisibility causes war by prohibiting actors from selecting mutually acceptable agreements. In contrast, when mixed with other bargaining frictions, this note shows that issue indivisibility can promote peace. With shifting power, moderate indivisibilities allow rising states to credibly promise concessions they otherwise could not, mitigating commitment problems. With asymmetric information, moderate indivisibilities can convince actors to issue safer demands. As a result, in both cases, the probability of war is nonmonotonic in indivisibilities. The results therefore indicate that the theoretical relationship between indivisibilities and war is more ambiguous than the literature suggests.

Conditionally accepted at Journal of Politics. Click here to download.