Explaining Political Jujitsu: Institutional Building and the Outcomes of Regime Violence Against Unarmed Protests
34 Pages Posted: 23 Jul 2013
Date Written: June 15, 2013
The use of violent coercion to repress unarmed protests, such as that seen during the Arab Spring, sometimes backfires on the government – an outcome called political jujitsu. Examining unique global data covering extreme violence used by governments against unarmed protests from 1989 to 2012 (drawn from UCDP) and the Nonviolent and Violent Campaigns and Outcomes (NAVCO 2.0) data, this study sets out to explain the conditions under which this outcome occurs. We argue that the likelihood of extreme repression backfiring against the government is a function of the ability of activists to communicate with uncommitted civilians or civil society groups and the international community. We find that a pre-existing campaign infrastructure increases the likelihood of increased domestic mobilization and security defections after violent repression, but is unrelated to international backlash. Within ongoing NAVCO campaigns we find that parallel media institutions increase the likelihood of increased domestic mobilization and international repercussions after repression. This study points to an important selection effect of the NAVCO campaign and the critical role of organizational infrastructure, especially communications infrastructure, in generating preference changes that create the conditions where killing unarmed civilians becomes costly for repressive governments.
Keywords: nonviolence, backfire, repression, mobilization
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