When is it Rational to be Magnanimous in Victory?

Steven J. Brams, Ben D. Mor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There are two contending schools of thought on how a victor should treat a defeated party after a war or other major dispute. Whereas magnanimity might quell the desire of the defeated party for revenge, it might also be instrumental in the defeated party's resurrection. Similarly, the defeated party might face the conflicting choices of whether to cooperate or not cooperate with the victor. These interdependent choices are modeled by a generic 2 × 2 “magnanimity game” (MG), which subsumes 12 different specific games that might arise in the aftermath of a war. Rational choices in MG are based on two-sided analysis, in which players can think ahead several moves and take account of each other's preferences. Cycling may or may not be permitted; if it is, which player possesses “moving power” can be critical to the outcome. The analysis is illustrated by historical examples from 19th- and 20th-century wars.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)432-454
Number of pages23
JournalRationality and Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1993

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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