Quarterly Journal of Political Science > Vol 12 > Issue 3

When Can Citizen Communication Hinder Successful Revolution?

Mehdi Shadmehr, University of Calgary, Canada, mehdi.shadmehr@ucalgary.ca , Dan Bernhardt, University of Illinois, Urbana, USA and University of Warwick, UK, danber@illinois.edu
Suggested Citation
Mehdi Shadmehr and Dan Bernhardt (2017), "When Can Citizen Communication Hinder Successful Revolution?", Quarterly Journal of Political Science: Vol. 12: No. 3, pp 301-323. http://dx.doi.org/10.1561/100.00017008

Publication Date: 24 Oct 2017
© 2017 M. Shadmehr and D. Bernhardt
Economic theory,  Autocracy,  Civil conflict,  Comparative political economy,  Formal modelling,  Game theory,  Human rights,  Political economy,  Uncertainty,  Collective action
RevolutionRegime changeCensorshipMedia freedomCommunicationSocial media


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In this article:
Model and Analysis 
Alternative Regime Change Models 
Appendix: Proofs 


We show that when citizens are uncertain about whether a successful revolution will turn out better than the status quo, communication between citizens reduces the likelihood of successful revolution when the status quo is sufficiently bad. A bad regime faces a tradeoff: communication helps citizens to coordinate, facilitating revolution; but it also facilitates the dissemination of any negative information about the alternative to the status quo, forestalling revolution. When the regime is sufficiently bad, this latter effect dominates. This result contrasts with the literature that assumes that each citizen knows that he wants to change the regime, but he is uncertain about whether enough citizens will revolt. In such settings, communication always raises the likelihood of successful revolution.