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Dynamics of Political Protests

  • Graig R. Klein and Patrick M. Regan

The links between protests and state responses have taken on increased visibility in light of the Arab Spring movements. But we still have unanswered questions about the relationship between protest behaviors and responses by the state. We frame this in terms of concession and disruption costs. Costs are typically defined as government behaviors that impede dissidents’ capacity for collective action. We change this causal arrow and hypothesize how dissidents can generate costs that structure the government's response to a protest. By disaggregating costs along dimensions of concession and disruption we extend our understanding of protest behaviors and the conditions under which they are more (or less) effective. Utilizing a new cross-national protest-event data set, we test our theoretical expectations against protests from 1990 to 2014 and find that when protesters generate high concession costs, the state responds in a coercive manner. Conversely, high disruption costs encourage the state to accommodate demands. Our research provides substantial insights and inferences about the dynamics of government response to protest.

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International Organization
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