Identity, Institutions, and Uprisings

54 Pages Posted: 25 Jul 2012 Last revised: 1 Apr 2019

Date Written: November 26, 2012


Three related models of contentious politics in authoritarian states are presented, using the identity-driven rational choice framework of Akerlof & Kranton (2000) as a starting point.

The first model describes the familiar cascade dynamic of uprisings, but driven by identity polarization rather than preference falsification. The second shows how screening enables some institutions act as havens for dissent, even under strong and stable authoritarian regimes. The third model links rational choice models to the “WUNC displays” of social movement theory and describes the “Dictator’s Dilemma” that uprisings may pose for authoritarian governments.

Taken together, these models suggest that an identity-driven rational choice framework can describe a wide range of phenomena related to contentious politics in authoritarian states.

Keywords: social movements, cascades, identity

Suggested Citation

Slee, Tom, Identity, Institutions, and Uprisings (November 26, 2012). Available at SSRN: or

Tom Slee (Contact Author)

SAP SE ( email )

Dietmar-Hopp-Allee 16
Waterloo, Ontario N2L 6R2

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