Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)
The book's overall ambition is big: explain how rivalries between groups within the same nationalist movement determine strategies, tactics, and success. The claim is bolstered by a series of in-depth case studies from Israel, Palestine, Algeria, and Ireland. Providing a front-row seat to these crucial cases is certainly a great strength of the book. The presented logic is intuitive and compelling: multiple non-state actors united under the leadership of one hegemonic force stand the greatest chance of eventual political success. While focused on nationalist rather than revolutionary movements, Rebel Power finds support beyond its scope in the history of the Communist International. The diagnostic take-home message of the book is compatible with Lenin's prescription in What is to be done? Both accounts point to strong leadership of one party as a recipe for success. Both accounts see spontaneity and fragmentation as pathways to demise. At times, what is offered empirically falls short of the stated ambition to provide a fully encompassing explanation. In contentious politics, the enemy gets a vote. Receding colonial claims have generated pathways to victory for some movements. Undying determination to not yield independence to separatists have denied success to others. This aspect is beyond the book's focus on the internal structure of movements. Yet, Rebel Power marks an important contribution to the scholarship on nationalist uprisings. Notions of power, risk-reward calculations, and collective action have been mostly applied to domestic multi-party competition or international relations. Extending such terminology into the internal dynamics of nationalist movements is enlightening.