Dr. Holger Albrecht (University of Alabama) and Dr. Kevin Koehler
Journal Article in International Area Studies Review, 23(3): 135-159, (2020)
This article explores the conditions under which revolutionary mass uprisings are likely to occur. We offer a probabilistic explanation of the social and political conditions that make people rise against autocrats. The article presents a medium-n dataset of 79 revolutionary mass uprisings in 165 autocracies since 1945. Since revolutions are rare events, a combination of factors must come together to trigger them. Drawing on the extant literature on revolutionary change, we find initial support for a range of discrete factors. Our findings suggest that four such factors are particularly powerful explanations of revolutionary mass uprisings—and a combination of those factors will go a long way in predicting revolutionary change: a history of protracted low-level popular contention; the presence of personalist regimes; long tenure of incumbents in office; and the showroom effect of uprisings in the temporal and spatial vicinity of states. In a broader theoretical perspective, these findings give rise to a breaking-point explanation of revolutionary situations, emphasizing that mass uprisings build up over time, whereas structuralist theories or grievance-based approaches fare less well in predicting revolutionary ruptures.