Mass Revolutions vs. Elite Coups

53 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2009 Last revised: 15 Feb 2011

Date Written: January 17, 2011


Most modern autocracies were overthrown by elite coups, while a mere few by mass revolutions. We provide a theory linking economic performance to the likelihood that an autocracy collapses due to a revolution or due to a coup. The theory is based on the interaction between three political classes: the dictator, interested in survival; the elites, interested in overthrowing the dictator and replacing him; and the masses, interested in democratization. The theory predicts that revolutions occur during economic crises, and, surprisingly, coups during normal economic periods, not dire ones. This prediction is consistent with 1960{2000 data on authoritarian breakdowns.

Keywords: autocracy, regime transitions, revolutions, coups

JEL Classification: D72, D74

Suggested Citation

Kricheli, Ruth and Livne, Yair, Mass Revolutions vs. Elite Coups (January 17, 2011). APSA 2009 Toronto Meeting Paper, Available at SSRN:

Ruth Kricheli (Contact Author)

Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

Yair Livne