Journal of International Relations and Development

, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp 26–58

On the transformation of warfare: a plausibility probe of the new war thesis

  • Monika Heupel
  • Bernhard Zangl

DOI: 10.1057/jird.2009.31

Cite this article as:
Heupel, M. & Zangl, B. J Int Relat Dev (2010) 13: 26. doi:10.1057/jird.2009.31


This article intends to contribute to the debate on the emergence of so-called new wars by reconstructing the new war thesis in a way that allows an empirical assessment of the plausibility of the thesis. It makes explicit the defining criteria implicit to the new war thesis which claims that a fundamental transformation of modern intra-state warfare has taken place due to the end of the Cold War. It also lays out the causal mechanisms that underpin the alleged transformation of warfare. Based on the reconstructed conceptual framework and drawing on case studies of the wars in Cambodia, Afghanistan, Angola, Somalia and Sierra Leone, the article then lends support to the new war thesis. The cases demonstrate that, in the 1990s, war economies based on criminal activities became more important and triggered the fragmentation of warring parties and the economisation of their war motives. Moreover, in combination, the fragmentation of warring parties and the economisation of their war motives facilitate the application of brutal violence against civilians.


civil warnew warspeace researchtransformation of warfarewar economywarlords

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Monika Heupel
    • 1
  • Bernhard Zangl
    • 2
  1. 1.Social Science Research Center Berlin (SSRCB), Research Unit Transnational Conflicts and International InstitutionsBerlinGermany
  2. 2.LMU Munich, Geschwister-Scholl-Institute of Political ScienceMunichGermany