Collective Action with Uncertain Payoffs: Coordination, Public Signals and Punishment Dilemmas
University of Miami - School of Business Administration - Department of Economics
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign - Department of Economics
APSA 2011 Annual Meeting Paper
We provide a framework for analyzing collective action in contentious contexts such as protests or revolutions when individuals are uncertain about the relative payoffs of the status quo and revolution. We model the "calculus of protest" of individuals who must decide whether to submit to the status quo or revolt based on personal information about their payoffs. When deciding whether to revolt, a citizen must infer both the value of successful revolution and the likely actions of other citizens. We characterize the conditions under which payoffuncertainty overturns conventional wisdom: (a) when a citizen is too willing to revolt, he reduces the incentives of others to revolt; (b) less accurate information about the value of revolution can make revolt more likely; (c) public signals can reduce the likelihood of revolt; (d) harsher punishment can increase the incidence of punishment; and (e) the incidence of protest can be positively correlated with that of repression.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 53
Keywords: collective action, coordination, payoff uncertainty, protests, revolutions, repression, punishment dilemma, punishment puzzle, protest-repression nexus, public signals, strategic complements, strategic substitutes, global games.Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: August 1, 2011 ; Last revised: August 10, 2011
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