Drivers of natural resource-based political conflict

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Why are some natural resource-based political conflicts so controversial, acrimonious and intractable? What factors drive these conflicts? And what turns the common political conflict into the high-level, symbolic, and sustained political conflict? This paper conceptualizes the 'drivers' of natural resource-based political conflict in the United States. It examines the dominant themes, patterns and underlying logic of these conflicts. The very nature and context of these cases sometimes promise intractability, but they are also often 'wicked by design' in that political actors, institutions and policy processes often compound them. The following drivers of conflict are discussed: scarcity, the policy surrogate, the sacred and spiritual and importance of place, policy design (historical and budgetary), policy frames, scientific disagreement and uncertainty, electoral politics and the use of wedge issues, political and interest group strategy, media framing, adversarial governance, Constitutional, statutory and administrative language, and distrust. The paper finishes by placing natural resource-based conflict in political perspective.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)307-341
Number of pages35
JournalPolicy Sciences
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Dec 2003


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