The Clash of Brothers

67 Pages Posted: 7 Aug 2014

Date Written: 2014


How does shared identity affect interstate war-proneness and hostility? This paper argues that shared identity in the form of cultural similarity is a source of wars, but only in the presence of differences in domestic political institutions. When shared identity is based on visible cultural markers, identity ties facilitate the spread of democratization. Elites in repressive regimes are threatened by a culturally-similar country where citizens are empowered. Thus a dictator uses force against the culturally-similar democracy to ensure that his or her citizens see their empowered brothers as an enemy rather than a model. Using a new dataset on cultural similarity, coupled with the Correlates of War Militarized Interstate Dispute (1816-2008) dataset, I show that the most war-prone and the most hostile country pairs share culture, but differ in their political institutions. The cultural similarity variables are based on race, religion, and civilization, all of which are positively correlated with questions about political culture in the World Values Survey. Through the analysis of articles written by the North Korean Central News Agency, I also show that Pyongyang began to describe life in South Korea in more negative terms after South Korea democratized in 1987.

Keywords: war, culture, identity, democratization

JEL Classification: D74, H56, O17

Suggested Citation

Lada, Akos, The Clash of Brothers (2014). APSA 2014 Annual Meeting Paper, Available at SSRN:

Akos Lada (Contact Author)

Harvard University ( email )

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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