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Ethan Bueno de Mesquita, Chicago Print
Tuesday, 25 May 2010, 14:00 - 15:30

Regime Change and Revolutionary Entrepreneurs

Ethan Bueno de Mesquita, Chicago University

ABSTRACT: I study how a revolutionary vanguard might use violence to mobilize a mass public. The mechanism is informational---violence is a tool for the vanguard to manipulate the population's beliefs about the level of anti-government sentiment in society. The model has multiple equilibria, one equilibrium in which there may be revolution and another in which there is certain not to be Comparative statics demonstrate that, in the former, structural factors influence expected mobilization, while in the latter they do not. Hence, the model is consistent with structural factors influencing the likelihood of revolution in some societies but not others, offering a partial defense of structural accounts from common critiques. The model also challenges standard arguments about the role of revolutionary vanguards. The model predicts selection effects---controlling for structural factors, an active vanguard emerges only in societies that are already coordinated on a participatory equilibrium. Hence, a correlation between vanguard activity and mass mobilization may not constitute evidence for the causal efficacy of vanguards---be it through creating focal points, providing selective incentives, or communicating information.

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