A Model of Protests, Revolution, and Information

45 Pages Posted: 19 Feb 2016 Last revised: 26 Oct 2019

See all articles by Salvador Barberà

Salvador Barberà

Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

Matthew O. Jackson

Stanford University - Department of Economics; Santa Fe Institute

Date Written: October 2019


A collective action or revolt succeeds only if sufficiently many people participate. We study how potential revolutionaries' ability to coordinate is affected by what they learn from different sources. We first examine how people learn about the likelihood of a revolution's success by talking to those around themselves, which can either work in favor or against the success of an uprising, depending on the prior beliefs of the agents, the homogeneity of preferences in the population, and the number of contacts. We extend the analysis by examining the effects of homophily on learning: people are more likely to meet others who have similar preferences, undercutting learning. We introduce variants of our model to discuss other ways of learning about the support for a revolution. We discuss why holding mass protests before a revolt provides more informative signals of people’s willingness to actively participate than other less costly forms of communication (e.g., via social media). We also show how outcomes of revolutions in one region can inform citizens of another region and thus trigger (or discourage) neighboring revolutions. We also discuss the role of governments in avoiding revolutions and learning about their citizens' concerns; in particular, by observing the strength of protests and counter-protests.

Keywords: revolution, demonstration, protests, strikes, Arab Spring

JEL Classification: D74, D72, D71, D83, C72

Suggested Citation

Barberà Sàndez, Salvador and Jackson, Matthew O., A Model of Protests, Revolution, and Information (October 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2732864 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2732864

Salvador Barberà Sàndez

Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona ( email )

Edifici B - Campus Bellaterra
Barcelona, 08193

Matthew O. Jackson (Contact Author)

Stanford University - Department of Economics ( email )

Landau Economics Building
579 Serra Mall
Stanford, CA 94305-6072
United States
1-650-723-3544 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.stanford.edu/~jacksonm

Santa Fe Institute

1399 Hyde Park Road
Santa Fe, NM 87501
United States

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