War endings: What science and constructivism can tell us

John A. Vasquez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article discusses both scientific findings as well as constructivist approaches to build an explanation of why interstate wars end. It takes each perspective in turn to see what it can tell us about war endings. The resulting analysis shows that the two schools can learn from one another when they focus on a common research problem. Using the first approach, it explains that most wars end because someone wins them. Scientific studies have been fairly successful in identifying the factors associated with victory. Most wars are won by the side having greater economic resources and that has suffered a lower percentage of its population being killed. There is also evidence that public support for war goes down as casualties increase. These factors are more important 'predictor' than pre-war military capability. Yet, why does one side accept defeat? The author contends that constructivism tells us that interstate war is a social invention with certain rules and norms that have evolved in practice that tell states when wars can be fought and when they are over. The implications are explored to outline a process by which war as a social institution might come to an end.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)651-678
Number of pages28
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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