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International Journal of law and Conflict Resolution

Vol. 3 (1), pp. 116-120, May, 2015


Scholastic debates on the nature of war in the post-cold war era: Mary Kaldor’s ‘new wars’ thesis

Erhiyoma Elvis 

Lagos State University, Ojo, Nigeria. 


The nature and characteristics of war in the post-cold war era have been the focus of academic debates in the field of Peace and Conflict studies in recent years especially with regard to whether or not a distinction should be made between ‘old’ and ‘new’ wars. Mary Kaldor’s ‘new wars’ thesis, a very significant contribution to these debates, argues that there is a distinction given that the actors, goals, methods and modes of financing wars in the post -cold war era have changed significantly as a result of globalization (Kaldor, 2006:1). While many critics disagree and argue that the distinction does not exist (Kalyvas, 2001) and claim that there is nothing new about ‘new wars’ (Henderson and Singer, 2002), others question the lack of adequate empirical and historical evidence (Chojnacki, 2006:48) and argue that the thesis lacks any measureable criteria. However, as Mundy (2011) rightly points out, our justifications for concepts such as the ‘new wars’ thesis should be based on their ability to confront and address the very circumstances they seek to improve rather than on claims of alleged coherence and reflections of history. While this article is not directed at refuting criticisms, it is important to note that the term ‘new’ used in describing these wars that were taking place in the 1990s in the Balkans and Africa did not refer to them as having no historical parallels or antecedents but referred to a different ‘logic’ from the wars that scholars and policy-makers were concentrating on (Kaldor, 2012). Regardless of its limitations, this article argues that Kaldors ‘new war’ thesis has significant academic/analytical and policy relevance in the field of security studies and much more in the 21st century.

Key words: New wars, conflict, policy, organized violence, peace.