Reconsidering Root Causes: An Interdisciplinary Approach

Stephen McLoughlin, Deborah Mayersen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


‘Structural prevention … comprises strategies to address the root causes of deadly conflict,’ observed the Carnegie Commission in the seminal report, Preventing Deadly Conflict (Hamburg and Vance, 1997: 69). This statement succinctly defines the dominant paradigm within research into the causes and prevention of genocide and mass atrocities. Extreme violence has been perceived as resulting from the cumulative effect of multiple risk factors or root causes. Prevention, therefore, requires the timely identification and deconstruction of these causal factors. This paradigm has been very successful in identifying a number of the long-term causes of genocide and mass atrocities, such as the presence of an ‘outgroup’ and the existence of internal strife within societies. Similarly, it has led to the identification of a range of preventive actions that may mitigate these risk factors, such as legislation to protect vulnerable minorities. Furthermore, models analysing the presence of risk factors in particular nations have enabled the development of mass atrocity risk lists for early warning purposes. Perhaps because of these successes, the assumptions that underlie the ‘root cause’ approach to the causes and prevention of genocide and mass atrocities have rarely been questioned. Yet analysis suggests that they are both flawed and unnecessarily restrictive.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGenocide, Risk and Resilience
Subtitle of host publicationAn Interdisciplinary Approach
EditorsBert Ingelaere, Stephan Parmentier, Jaques Haers, Barbara Segaert
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-137-33243-1
ISBN (Print)978-1-349-46172-1
Publication statusPublished - 14 Nov 2013

Bibliographical note

© 2013 Stephen McLoughlin and Deborah Mayersen


  • Unite Nations
  • Death Toll
  • Hate Speech
  • Extreme Violence
  • Mass Violence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)
  • Social Sciences(all)


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