Social Transformation and Violence: Evidence from U.S. Reconstruction
63 Pages Posted: 15 Aug 2018 Last revised: 23 May 2019
Date Written: July 31, 2018
How do political actors achieve revolutionary social transformation, and what are the consequences of their efforts? In this paper, we argue that the greater resources allocated to the beneficiaries of transformative social and political schemes, the more successful political actors will be in achieving the change they desire. But success comes at a cost: violence is more likely to emerge when transformative projects succeed, specifically, when they succeed in reducing social hierarchies between historically repressed and privileged communities. Effective reductions to long-standing social inequities trigger resentment among privileged communities leading to violence against repressed communities. Furthermore, because historically repressed communities work to institutionalize and preserve socio-economic gains arising from statebuilding interventions, such gains in status, as well as violence in response to them, persist over the long-term. We quantitatively test our arguments using historical, county-level data on post-U.S. Civil War Reconstruction and we supply both quantitative and qualitative evidence for our mechanisms. Our findings support our theory. We thus introduce a new mechanism that causally links social transformation to violence, thereby expanding our understanding of how actors consolidate social orders, and how societies' respond to these efforts.
Keywords: statebuilding, violence, civil war, mixed methods
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