Loyalty Can't Be Bought: Explaining Military Defection during Civilian Uprisings against Autocracies

53 Pages Posted: 20 Aug 2017

See all articles by Sara Plana

Sara Plana

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, Department of Political Science

Date Written: August 17, 2017

Abstract

Why do soldiers disobey orders to defend the regime against civilian protestors? Using a mixed-method approach with a time-series cross-sectional large-N analysis and cross- and within-case process-tracing, I test two competing logics: one that claims obedience follows from incentivizing loyalty and another that points to immaterial shared bonds. Contrary to the dominant stream in the literature, I provide evidence that a regime’s efforts to materially incentivize loyalty are not good predictors of whether soldiers will defend the regime in its hour of need. I argue that material incentives tend to be moot when soldiers are faced with the proximate decision of firing on civilians. Instead, other motivations come to the fore — specifically, whether soldiers are more strongly bonded to the society or to the military and which action would be the more socially costly as a result.

Keywords: Defection, Military, Uprising, Autocracies, Autocracy, Loyalty

Suggested Citation

Plana, Sara, Loyalty Can't Be Bought: Explaining Military Defection during Civilian Uprisings against Autocracies (August 17, 2017). MIT Political Science Department Research Paper No. 2017-20, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3020775 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3020775

Sara Plana (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, Department of Political Science ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139
United States

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