Theses Doctoral

Violent or Nonviolent Means to Political Ends: What Accounts for Variation in Tactics Among Dissident Organizations Targeting Domestic Governments?

Lins de Albuquerque, Adriana

What determines whether organizations with maximalist demands - those calling for regime change and increased political self-determination - employ violent or nonviolent tactics to make their governments acquiesce in political demands? More specifically, why do some organizations employ strikes and demonstrations whereas others employ guerrilla warfare/conventional warfare, and others still terrorist tactics, against their governments?
I infer from bargaining theory that rational organizations should prefer to use nonviolent means of contestation to resolve conflicts of interests with target regimes because it is generally less costly than employing violent tactics. When nonviolent protest cannot be employed due to fear of lethal government repression, inability to mobilize enough participants to pose a military challenge, or inability to solve the information problem using nonviolent tactics, organizations are either deterred from using any tactic at all or they employ violent tactics.
Whether they do the former or the latter, and which type of violent tactic they employ depends on organizations' ability to mobilize supporters to participate in contention, which in turn depends on popular satisfaction with the status quo.
I argue that organizations' choice of tactics depends on two key factors: 1) Anticipated repression of nonviolent protest; and 2) Popular satisfaction with the status quo. I refer to this theory as mobilization theory.
I evaluate the empirical support for this theory as well as the predominant theory in the existing literature, opportunity structure theory, by using statistics to analyze organizational choice of tactics in nine high state capacity countries in the Middle East and North Africa from 1980-2004 and 37 low state capacity countries in Africa from 1990-2010.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Political Science
Thesis Advisors
Fortna, Page
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 19, 2014