Dr. Holger Albrecht “Revolutionary Mass Uprisings in Authoritarian Regimes” Journal Article

Revolutionary Mass Uprisings in Authoritarian Regimes

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.