Reflections on the Revolution

Kevin Lewis

October 12, 2020

Social Revolution and Authoritarian Durability
Jean Lachapelle et al.
World Politics, October 2020, Pages 557-600


This article explores the causes of authoritarian durability. Why do some authoritarian regimes survive for decades, often despite severe crises, while others collapse quickly, even absent significant challenges? Based on an analysis of all authoritarian regimes between 1900 and 2015, the authors argue that regimes founded in violent social revolution are especially durable. Revolutionary regimes, such as those in Russia, China, Cuba, and Vietnam, endured for more than half a century in the face of strong external pressure, poor economic performance, and large-scale policy failures. The authors develop and test a theory that accounts for such durability using a novel data set of revolutionary regimes since 1900. The authors contend that autocracies that emerge out of violent social revolution tend to confront extraordinary military threats, which lead to the development of cohesive ruling parties and powerful and loyal security apparatuses, as well as to the destruction of alternative power centers. These characteristics account for revolutionary regimes’ unusual longevity.

War, Socialism and the Rise of Fascism: An Empirical Exploration
Daron Acemoglu et al.
NBER Working Paper, September 2020


The recent ascent of right-wing populist movements in many countries has rekindled interest in understanding the causes of the rise of Fascism in inter-war years. In this paper, we argue that there was a strong link between the surge of support for the Socialist Party after World War I (WWI) and the subsequent emergence of Fascism in Italy. We first develop a source of variation in Socialist support across Italian municipalities in the 1919 election based on war casualties from the area. We show that these casualties are unrelated to a battery of political, economic and social variables before the war and had a major impact on Socialist support (partly because the Socialists were the main anti-war political movement). Our main result is that this boost to Socialist support (that is “exogenous” to the prior political leaning of the municipality) led to greater local Fascist activity as measured by local party branches and Fascist political violence (squadrismo), and to significantly larger vote share of the Fascist Party in the 1924 election. We document that the increase in the vote share of the Fascist Party was not at the expense of the Socialist Party and instead came from right-wing parties, thus supporting our interpretation that center-right and right-wing voters coalesced around the Fascist Party because of the “red scare”. We also show that the veterans did not consistently support the Fascist Party and there is no evidence for greater nationalist sentiment in areas with more casualties. We provide evidence that landowner associations and greater presence of local elites played an important role in the rise of Fascism. Finally, we find greater likelihood of Jewish deportations in 1943-45 and lower vote share for Christian Democrats after World War II in areas with greater early Fascist activity.

South Korea's Democratic Decay
Gi-Wook Shin
Journal of Democracy, July 2020, Pages 100-114


South Korea (hereafter Korea) is following global trends as it slides toward a "democratic depression." Both the spirit of democracy and actual liberal-democratic standards are under attack. The symptoms of democratic decline are increasingly hard to miss, and they are appearing in many corners of Korean society, the hallmarks of zero-sum politics in which opponents are demonized, democratic norms are eroded, and political life grows ever more polarized. Unlike in countries where far-right elements play on populist sentiments, in Korea these aggressive and illiberal measures are the work of a leftist government. Disturbingly, the key figures in Korea's democratic backsliding are former prodemocracy activists who have now risen to become a new power elite.

When “Fake News” Becomes Real: The Consequences of False Government Denials in an Authoritarian Country
Chengli Wang & Haifeng Huang
Comparative Political Studies, forthcoming


Governments around the world, particularly authoritarian ones, often deny inconvenient or unfavorable information, calling it fake news or false rumor, and yet what was denied often turns out to be true eventually. How will citizens react when the initial “fake news” is verified to be real? What are the consequences of false government denials on government credibility and citizen satisfaction? Using a survey experiment in China and a follow-up survey, we find that citizens can be persuaded by the authorities’ denials and reduce their belief in a piece of news that has been declared “fake.” But when the denied news turns out to be real, citizens will reduce their belief not only in the denial at hand but also in a similar denial in the future and reduce their satisfaction with the government. Thus, false denials have both immediate and lasting effects on government credibility and can erode citizen satisfaction with the government.

Gender Quotas and International Reputation
Sarah Sunn Bush & Pär Zetterberg
American Journal of Political Science, forthcoming


The global spread of electoral gender quotas has been characterized as one of the most significant institutional developments of the last 30 years. Many of the countries that have adopted these laws designed to increase women's political representation are electoral autocracies that have otherwise‐stark gender inequalities. Some scholars argue that electoral authoritarian states have adopted quotas as a strategy for improving their international reputations for democracy. This article represents the first exploration of whether quotas really generate reputational boosts. Using large‐scale survey experiments in Sweden and the United States concerning hypothetical developing countries, we find that they do. In particular, audiences perceived electoral autocracies as more democratic and were more likely to support giving them foreign aid when women's descriptive representation was greater. Beyond its contribution to our understanding of gender quotas and women's representation, this article contributes to broader debates about international reputation, human rights, and foreign aid attitudes.

Remnants of Communism and Present-Day Inequality
Waleed Jami & Markus Kemmelmeier
Cross-Cultural Research, forthcoming


Communism substantially shaped the values and beliefs of those who grew up under its regime. We argue that, after the Soviet Union’s collapse and the rapid transition to democracy and capitalism, many older people in post-communist countries continued to abide by an “ethos of equality” that was part of their socialization. These individuals continue to believe that it is the government’s responsibility to establish social equality; hence, they should evaluate social and political institutions based on the level of inequality that exists in their country. Using the 2016 European Quality of Life Survey, we examined to what extent levels of social inequality moderated the effects of age on social views and personal outcomes in post-communist and non-communist societies. We found that, especially in highly unequal post-communist societies, older individuals were less satisfied with democracy and trusted societal institutions less than their younger counterparts, whereas this was much less likely to be the case in post-communist countries with low inequality. There was no link between age and social views in non-communist societies, regardless of levels of inequality. Other than suggested by some scholars, inequality did not have any implications for evaluations of one’s personal life. The discussion focuses on the implications of our findings and their contributions to current research on social inequality and on the legacy of communism.

Previous Military Rule and Democratic Survival
Nam Kyu Kim
Journal of Conflict Resolution, forthcoming


Existing scholarship shows that a history of military rule increases the risk of democratic breakdown. However, scholars overlook the fact that military rule takes two distinct forms: collegial and personalist military rule. I argue that the two types of military rule provide different structural settings for post-authoritarian contexts. Collegial military rule hands over more cohesive and hierarchical militaries to their subsequent democracies than personalist military rule. These militaries remain organized, politicized, and powerful in emerging democracies, which increases the risk of military intervention and coups. I hypothesize that collegial military rule poses a greater threat to the survival of the ensuing democracies than personalist military rule. Empirical analysis reveals that democracies after collegial military rule are more likely to collapse than other democracies, including those emerging from personalist military rule. This shows that the previous finding on the detrimental effect of military rule is largely driven by collegial military rule.

Excluded Ethnic Groups, Conflict Contagion, and the Onset of Genocide and Politicide during Civil War
Gary Uzonyi & Burak Demir
International Studies Quarterly, forthcoming


Why do some governments commit genocide or politicide during civil war? It is well established that opposition groups learn from each other and that rebellion by one group encourages rebellion by others. Governments understand this dynamic. When a government excludes several ethnic groups from power, it worries that rebellion by one excluded group may invite challenges by other groups simultaneously. Therefore, when fighting one excluded group, increasing the number of additional excluded groups provides the government two incentives to engage in atrocity. First, the government hopes to ward off other challengers by demonstrating its brutality. Second, the government hopes to win its war quickly by destroying the rebels’ support base to reallocate its resources in case of further rebellions. Statistical analysis of all civil wars since 1946 reveals that governments fighting against the backdrop of additional excluded ethnic groups are more likely to commit genocide or politicide than other regimes.

Roads to Rule, Roads to Rebel: Relational State Capacity and Conflict in Africa
Carl Müller-Crepon, Philipp Hunziker & Lars-Erik Cederman
Journal of Conflict Resolution, forthcoming


Weak state capacity is one of the most important explanations of civil conflict. Yet, current conceptualizations of state capacity typically focus only on the state while ignoring the relational nature of armed conflict. We argue that opportunities for conflict arise where relational state capacity is low, that is, where the state has less control over its subjects than its potential challengers. This occurs in ethnic groups that are poorly accessible from the state capital, but are internally highly interconnected. To test this argument, we digitize detailed African road maps and convert them into a road atlas akin to Google Maps. We measure the accessibility and internal connectedness of groups via travel times obtained from this atlas and simulate road networks for an instrumental variable design. Our findings suggest that low relational state capacity increases the risk of armed conflict in Africa.

Insurgency and Ivory: The Territorial Origins of Illicit Resource Extraction in Civil Conflicts
Felix Haass
Comparative Political Studies, forthcoming


The presence of natural resources makes civil conflicts more likely to erupt, last longer, and more difficult to end. Yet rebels do not always exploit resources wherever they are present. Why? I argue that rebels extract more resources when they compete with governments over territorial authority. Territorial competition facilitates black market access, generates financial pressure, and produces governance incentives for rebels to extract natural resources. I test this proposition in a two-tiered research design. First, I show globally that moderate territorial control predicts more resource extraction by rebels. Subsequently, I focus on the example of ivory poaching which offers a rare glimpse into the usually hidden resource extraction process. I match spatially disaggregated conflict event data to subnational poaching data in conflict-affected African countries. Results show that rebels seeking territorial control substantially increase poaching rates. These findings highlight the strategic conditions under which territorial competition shapes rebel criminal behavior.

What constitutes a constitutional amendment culture?
Danko Tarabar & Andrew Young
European Journal of Political Economy, forthcoming


Why are some constitutions amended frequently and others hardly at all? An obvious candidate determinant is constitutional rigidity, i.e., the size and number of procedural barriers to amendment. Given some demand for amendment, greater rigidity implies a smaller supply. However, measures of rigidity often do not correlate significantly (or even with the predicted sign) with amendment rates. Ginsburg and Melton (2015) argue that amendment culture – “shared attitudes about the desirability of amendment” – is a more important determinant of amendment rates. We study up to 128 constitutional episodes from 54 countries and estimate relationships between amendment rates and Hofstede cultural indices. Cultures that are more individualistic and less prone to uncertainty avoidance are associated with higher amendment rates. When cultural dimensions are controlled for, the lagged amendment rate (Ginsburg and Melton's proxy for culture) is not a robust correlate.


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