by Kyle Haynes
This article outlines a classroom simulation for teaching the bargaining model of war. This model has become one of the most important theories of international conflict, but the technical notation often used to illustrate it is troublesome for some students. I describe a simple card game that can be integrated into a broader strategy for conveying the bargaining model’s core insights. I also highlight ways in which the game can be modified to focus on different aspects of the model’s logic.
James Fearon’s seminal work on the “bargaining model” of war set in motion a research agenda that highlights the important effects of informational asymmetries on international conflict (Fearon 1995 ). The basic claim that uncertainty, misrepresentation, and mutual optimism can substantially increase the likelihood of conflict has gained significant traction in the field. Indeed, it is reasonable to claim that the bargaining model should constitute an important component of an undergraduate international relations (IR) curriculum. Despite the model’s elegance and intuitive logic, however, much of the bargaining literature contains highly technical, game-theoretic notation that is simply unsuited for most undergraduate students.