Technological Foundations of Political Instability

39 Pages Posted: 2 Jun 2014 Last revised: 4 Jun 2014

See all articles by Dmitry Dagaev

Dmitry Dagaev

National Research University Higher School of Economics

Natalia Lamberova

University of California, Los Angeles

Anton Sobolev

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)

Konstantin Sonin

University of Chicago - Harris School of Public Policy; Higher School of Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Date Written: December 1, 2013

Abstract

There has been a wide-spread belief that elections with a wide franchise following removal of an oppressive dictator lead to establishment of a government that is not vulnerable to mass protest. At the same time, most of the post-World War II non-constitutional exits of recently-installed autocratic leaders were caused by elite coups, rather than popular protests. The recent experience of Egypt, where the democratic post-Mubarak government, a result of the Arab Spring, collapsed after having had almost uninterrupted protests since its first day in office, offers a striking counterexample to both of these patterns. We demonstrate that this is a general phenomenon: the same technological shock, arrival of social media, that makes the incumbent vulnerable, lays foundation for continuous instability of the subsequent democratic government. Our theoretical model, which incorporates protest into a Downsian framework, takes into account specific features of modern protests: the significant role of social media and the absence of the partisan or personalized leadership during popular unrest. Case studies of the Arab countries with and without large-scale protests corroborate our theoretical findings.

Keywords: Arab Spring, autocracy, collective action, regime change, social media

JEL Classification: C42, D74, L96

Suggested Citation

Dagaev, Dmitry and Lamberova, Natalia and Sobolev, Anton and Sonin, Konstantin, Technological Foundations of Political Instability (December 1, 2013). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP9787, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2444785

Dmitry Dagaev (Contact Author)

National Research University Higher School of Economics ( email )

Myasnitskaya street, 20
Moscow, Moscow 119017
Russia

Natalia Lamberova

University of California, Los Angeles ( email )

Los Angeles, CA 20094
United States

Anton Sobolev

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) ( email )

405 Hilgard Avenue
Box 951361
Los Angeles, CA 90095
United States

HOME PAGE: http://sites.google.com/site/antsobolev/

Konstantin Sonin

University of Chicago - Harris School of Public Policy ( email )

1155 East 60th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Higher School of Economics ( email )

20 Myasnitskaya street
Moscow, 119017
Russia

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

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