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The Role of Blame in Collective Action: Evidence from Russia


Blame plays an important role in motivating many human activities, but rarely has the attribution of blame been analyzed for its effects on protest behavior. I argue that how people understand causal relationships and attribute blame for a grievance plays a crucial role in their decision to redress the grievance through protest. The greater the specificity of blame attribution, the greater the probability of protest. Among the less specific attributors of blame, political entrepreneurs have more opportunities to mobilize protest, especially if they can aid in blame specification. I test these hypotheses using evidence from an original nationwide survey of 2,026 adult Russians conducted in 1998 during the height of the Russian wage arrears crisis. Russians who attributed blame for the crisis to specific culprits or problem-solvers protested more than Russians who did not, and the mobilizing efforts of entrepreneurs had a greater impact on the less specific attributors.An earlier version of this article was presented at the 2001 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association. I would like to thank the Office of Research at the U.S. Information Agency (now State Department) for making the collection of these data possible and Vanessa Baird, Tami Buhr, Ray Duch, Steve Hanson, Will Moore, Cliff Morgan, Bob Stein, Randy Stevenson, Ric Stoll, and Andy Stock for their helpful advice. The views expressed in this paper are those of the author and do not represent official positions of the State Department or the U.S. Government. The data and documentation necessary to replicate this analysis can be obtained from the National Archives.

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American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
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