Revolution, Protest & Repression

Revolution, Protest & Repession


Several studies scrutinize the potential causes and reasons for rebellion and revolution. Yet, substantially less research systematically examines the consequences of revolution. We address this gap by investigating the direct economic effects of revolutions. Since revolutions induce far-reaching uncertainty on a variety of levels — e.g., political preferences of the new winning coalition or bilateral and multilateral relations with other countries — domestic economies suffer. First, using a time-series-cross-sectional approach we investigate the short term consequences of revolutions. Second, applying the synthetic control method, we estimate counterfactual scenarios to understand the causal effect of the Iranian and Cuban revolutions. We find strong evidence that revolutions appear to go hand in hand with enormous economic costs. In the first five years after the onset of a revolution, GDP slumps by 30-40\%. In addition, it takes several decades to recover from this revolutionary economic shock. Although confined to revolutions only, our results are important for understanding the consequences of regime change in general.

The Arab world shows a puzzling variation of political violence. The region’s monarchies often remain quiet, while other autocracies witness major upheaval. Institutional explanations of this variation suggest that monarchical rule solves the ruler’s credible commitment problems and prevents elite splits. This article argues that institutional explanations neglect the role of repression: increasing the scope of repression raises the costs of rebellion and deters rebels. However, the deterrence effect disappears if repression is used indiscriminately. If remaining peaceful offers no benefits, repression creates new rebels instead of deterring them. A time-series-cross-section analysis of repression and political violence in the Middle East and North Africa corroborates our argument and shows the u-curve relation between repression and violence. Once we control for repression, monarchies have no special effect anymore. Thus, our article addresses the discussion about monarchical exceptionalism, and offers an explanation why repression deters as well as incites political violence.