The Journal of Politics


Polygyny or Misogyny? Reexamining the “First Law of Intergroup Conflict”

Kristian Skrede Gleditscha1, Julian Wucherpfenniga2, Simon Huga3 and Karina Garnes Reigstada4

a1 University of Essex and Centre for the Study of Civil War

a2 ETH Zurich

a3 University of Geneva and Centre for the Study of Civil War

a4 University of London


Kanazawa (2009) proposes a “first law of intergroup conflict,” suggesting that polygyny and its impact on access to reproductive women provides “the ultimate cause” for civil war. This controversial claim is supported by an empirical analysis at odds with most existing studies of civil wars. We reconsider the influence of polygyny in a more conventional statistical model. We fail to find evidence that ethnic groups with polygyny engage more frequently in civil wars, although it is possible to find results indicating that civil wars may be more common in states with legal polygamy. We detail how these findings seem at odds with Kanazawa’s theory and argue that misogyny seems a more plausible source of insights into the context for civil war and peace. We then show that civil wars are less common when women’s rights are better established and that legal polygamy has no discernable residual effect once women’s rights are considered.

(Received November 19 2009)

(Accepted April 28 2010)

(Online publication January 14 2011)


Kristian Skrede Gleditsch is Professor, Department of Government, University of Essex, Colchester UK CO4 3SQ and Research Associate, Centre for the Study of Civil War, PRIO, Norway.

Julian Wucherpfennig is PhD Candidate, Center for Comparative and International Studies, ETH Zürich, Switzerland CH-8092.

Simon Hug is Professor, Department of Political Science, Faculty of Economics and Social Sciences, University of Geneva, Switzerland CH-1211 and Centre for the Study of Civil War, PRIO, Norway.

Karina Garnes Reigstad is MA student, Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London.