Collective Action with Uncertain Payoffs: Coordination, Public Signals and Punishment Dilemmas
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign - Department of Economics
University of Miami - School of Business Administration - Department of Economics
October 6, 2010
Uncertainty in payoffs is a central feature of collective action in contentious contexts such as protests and revolutions. We integrate payoff uncertainty into a model of collective action. We model the “calculus of protest” of individuals who must decide whether to submit to the status quo or mount a revolution based on their personal assessments of the status quo. When deciding whether to revolt, a citizen must infer both the value of the status quo, and the actions of other citizens, which reflect their information about the relative values of the status quo and revolution. When a citizen is too willing to revolt, she deprives other citizens from optimally conditioning the outcome on their joint information, and hence reduces their willingness to revolt. We characterize the conditions under which: (a) less accurate information about the status quo can increase the likelihood of revolt; (b) common knowledge and public signals can reduce the likelihood of collective action and even successful revolution; (c) harsher punishment can increase the incidence of punishment; and (d) the incidence of revolt is positively correlated with the incidence of repression when failed revolt is punished harshly, but negatively correlated when punishment is slight.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 56working papers series
Date posted: October 11, 2010
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