Kill a Leader, Murder a Movement? Leadership and Assassination in Social Movements
American Behavioral Scientist, Vol. 50, No. 10, pp. 1370-1394, June 2007
26 Pages Posted: 25 May 2007
All too frequently, governments kill social movement leaders in an attempt to halt challenges to state power. Sometimes, such repression yields its intended effect; other times, it produces a powerful backlash, strengthening mass commitment and bolstering protest. In this article, we propose hypotheses accounting for these divergent outcomes. Comparing El Salvador's liberation movement with Nigeria's Ogoni autonomy movement, we hypothesize that, in addition to a movement's political opportunity structure, four factors internal to the movement matter: the type of leader; the movement's ideology of martyrdom; the leader's embodiment of a shared group identity; and the movement's pre-existing unity.
Keywords: leadership, social movements, repression, assassination, martyrs, Ogoni, Saro-Wiwa, El Salvador liberation movement, Oscar Romero, ideology, identity, strategy
JEL Classification: L3, L30, M3, M13, N4, N47, N46, O19, Z00, Z1, Z10
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