Nonviolent movements have often succeeded in unseating dictators, but short-term success does not guarantee long-term success. Many initially successful challenges have failed to produce democratic transitions. Movements have often faded away quickly after initial successes, followed by a return to authoritarian rule and increased repression. In other cases, nonviolent movements have fostered strengthened civil society participation and stable democracies.
This project examines how dissidents can promote democratic transitions and consolidation. Whereas existing research often focuses on whether predetermine factors are conducive to democratization, we emphasize the influence of the choices of actors and their consequences. Dissident movements tend to emphasize the importance of their own strategies, forward planning, and choosing the best tactics to engage civil society in order to secure a transition to democracy.
The project started on 1 July 2018. COVID 19 has created considerable challenges to the original schedule in 2020-2021. Travel and social distancing requirements have prevented Gleditsch from visiting PRIO in person over the period until September 201. It has also not been possible to have in person meeting or contact for many participants for much of this period. All planned annual meetings of professional societies have been cancelled or moved online. We are planning a workshop on 2-3 December 2021.
This project examines how dissident tactics can help promote transitions to democracy and democratic consolidation. The extensive extant literature on democratization and uprisings tends to focus on structural factors conducive to democratization or the immediate outcome of campaigns (e.g., the studies end when the dictator steps down) rather than long-term prospects for democracy. It also rarely focuses on movement tactics beyond the binary choice of violence versus non-violence. This stands in stark contrast to testimony of pro-democracy movements, who maintain that a detailed focus on tactics and long-term work after the immediate transition are key to securing a long-term victory.
Our project will address this gap by presenting a comprehensive theoretical and empirical framework to study the causal links between tactical choices and long-term prospects for democracy. Our project will focus on the different stages of non-violent pro-democracy campaigns (the initial phase, the time immediately after the dictator is removed, and the long-term phase). In each phase, we will pose the question: What kind of tactical choices promote success, and how does this apply to the different stages of a pro-democracy movement? For example, how important is the inclusion of formal civil society organizations for the long-term success of the movement? And how important are different forms of campaign planning, and discipline?
We propose a three-pronged approach to answer these questions: Statistical analysis of observational data (much of it collected by the project), controlled experiments, interviews with activists, as well as model-based simulation. Together, these will allow us assess counterfactual questions about campaign strategies and democratization in the short- and long term.
We will collaborate closely with the think-thank Center for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies to inform our research and facilitate policy dialogue.