Chris Blattman


Why We Fight

My book, Why We Fight, is my attempt to boil down decades of social science and create an accessible and readable way to engage students.

Get sample syllabi, slides, assignment ideas, problems sets, and tips for teaching high school, undergraduate, Master’s and PhD students

The big question: Most enemies loathe in peace, and so what makes warring groups different? The book and class takes you through conflict at every level—nations, political factions, ethnic groups, religions, villages, and gangs—investigating the common logics and roots.

This is also a book and class about what to do about violence. From the streets of Chicago or El Salvador to the UN Security Council, how to get warring rivals to stop the violence? And what can be done to get societies that are fragile and on the edge of fighting to be more resilient?

How to Change the World

Fall 2021 syllabus

So you want to make the world a better place, but how? So much policy fails. So many good intentions go awry. Why? What makes for good policy? What makes it bad? This is a class on the social science of policy making—the lessons from economics, political science, sociology, and anthropology, plus the practical experiences of practitioners. 

The course focuses on policy-making in a global context, especially international policy and development. The focus is on national and local development strategies and domestic policymakers and institutions.

Political Development

Over the past few decades, most low- and middle-income countries have enjoyed growing economies, more order, and greater freedom. Some countries, however, remain poor, violent, or unfree. What explains why some countries have moved along a path of “political development” while others have not?

 Spring 2020 syllabus and lecture slides:

IntroductionReasons for violence I ♦ Reasons for violence II ♦ Reasons for violence III ♦ State Development I ♦ State Development II ♦ Origin of inclusive institutions I ♦ Origins of inclusive institutions II ♦ Bargaining power & the roots of democratization ♦ Sources of societal bargaining power ♦ Legacies of imperialism ♦ Post colonial economic & political crisis ♦ Late 20th century economic & political disorder ♦ Peace interventions I ♦ Peace interventions II ♦ The politics of foreign aid ♦ Fostering stronger states and good governance ♦ Democratization ♦ Democracy, development, & wrap-up

PhD Political Economy of Development

Spring 2021 syllabus

Slides for James Robinson’s half:

A crash course in political economyThe state – Origins ♦ The state – ConsequencesThe regime I – Dictatorship ♦ The regime II – DemocracyThe architecture of democracySocial institutions“Deep” institutional variationInteractions

Slides for Chris Blattman’s half:

Ethnic politics ♦ Social identity and preferences ♦ Social engineering ♦ Rationalist warfare ♦ Non-standard theories of fighting ♦ Frontiers of violence research ♦ Organized crime & gangs I ♦ Organized crime & gangs II

Past Courses

Why We Fight - Book Cover
Subscribe to Blog