Citizens, Dictators and Networks: A Game Theory Approach

33 Pages Posted: 17 May 2004 Last revised: 12 Jul 2016

See all articles by Wilson Amadeo Perez-Oviedo

Wilson Amadeo Perez-Oviedo

Cornell University - Department of Economics; Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales (FLACSO) - Ecuador

Date Written: March 1, 2004


In a society composed of citizens and a dictator: what are the conditions for a successful citizens’ revolt? What kind of strategies do governments follow to prevent such revolts? In this paper we argue that the concept of networks is a very powerful tool to understand these issues, as shown – for example – by the prominent role of social networks during the recent revolts in the Arab world. More specifically, we model these types of societies as a game played between a leader, who has to decide the distribution of the aggregate income, and a group of citizens who have the opportunity to revolt if they are unhappy with the distribution (or if they dislike the regime). Coordinated action by citizens is possible because they form nodes in a communication network. However, communication through the network is distorted, which could preclude the emergence of collective action among citizens. The network structure and the distortion level are determinants of the political equilibrium and wealth distribution. The model explains how the dictator could use propaganda, cooptation, and repression to increase his expected utility. We also use our framework to provide a formal proof of Wintrobe’s Dictator’s Dilemma. Finally, the model is illustrated by applying it to cases in Nigeria, Zaire/Congo and Libya.

Keywords: Dictators. Networks. Revolts. Conflict. Coalitions

JEL Classification: C72, D72, D74, D81, D82, N4

Suggested Citation

Perez-Oviedo, Wilson Amadeo, Citizens, Dictators and Networks: A Game Theory Approach (March 1, 2004). FEEM Working Papers No. 33.04. Available at SSRN: or

Wilson Amadeo Perez-Oviedo (Contact Author)

Cornell University - Department of Economics ( email )

414 Uris Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853-7601
United States

Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales (FLACSO) - Ecuador ( email )

La Pradera 7-174 y Diego de Almagro
Quito, Pichincha 000

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