Looting in the context of violent conflict: A conceptualisation and typology

Roger Mac Ginty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)


The term looting is often used as a generic term for appropriation during armed conflict, with the greed thesis of conflict causation often making far-reaching claims on behalf of looting. Looting, we are led to believe, constitutes both a cause and a component of contemporary armed conflict and has substantial human costs. Despite the currency of the term, it remains under-conceptualised, often approximating to an undifferentiated category of all theft during warfare. This article conceptualises looting, noting that it is a label rather than a description of a particular type of activity. It then identifies necessary precipitants for looting behaviour before offering a typology of looting based on the motivations of looters and the processes involved in the looting activity. Since it is the product of multiple motivations, many simultaneously in operation, comprehensive explanations of looting require a composite theory capable of recognising its affective, political, and economic-rational choice components.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)857-870
Number of pages14
JournalThird World Quarterly
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2004


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