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

See all articles by Clifford Bob

Clifford Bob

Duquesne University

Sharon Erickson Nepstad

University of New Mexico

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Bob, Clifford and Nepstad, Sharon Erickson, Kill a Leader, Murder a Movement? Leadership and Assassination in Social Movements. American Behavioral Scientist, Vol. 50, No. 10, pp. 1370-1394, June 2007. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=989045

Clifford Bob (Contact Author)

Duquesne University ( email )

600 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15282
United States

Sharon Erickson Nepstad

University of New Mexico ( email )

MSC05 3080
1915 Roma NE
Albuquerque, NM 87131-0001
United States

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