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The Next ‘Spring’ is Certain to Come – and Certain to be Missed

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Deficits in Conflict Prevention and Research

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The Arab Spring took policymakers and academics by surprise. The starting point, the scope, nor the impact had been seen coming. This was primarily because of academics’ irrevocable belief in the stabilising power of authoritarian regimes. In light of this failing, the article will critically discuss the production of crisis knowledge on the basis of four major early warning tools. These are World Bank’s greed/grievance model, the predictive model by the Political Instability Task Force, the risk and capacity approach applied by the Failed States Index, and the International Crisis Group. The article will add to the debate in two ways. First, the analysis will show that prevention research can be biased in ways that crucially influence policymakers’ assessment of states at risk. Second, the article will argue in favour of a complementary perspective that includes the analysis of conflicts that do not erupt into large-scale violence against all odds (so-called ‘negative cases’).

Affiliations: 1: Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities (kwi), Essen, Germany,


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