Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)
The last two decades have seen studies of rebel governance moving away from an understanding of rebel rule from the narrower motivation of economic rewards towards asking how rebel groups build legitimacy among the civilian populations under their control. In short, moving from arguments of 'plunder' to those of politics. Legitimacy is seen as key to the establishment and durability of political order. Stewart approaches the subject with an interesting research puzzle: If legitimacy is important, why do some rebel groups introduce and enforce governance programs that are unpopular, often inciting violent resistance to their rule? She addresses this question through diverse cases of rebel rule illustrating her key point that 'governance is a politicized process beset by trade-offs and costs', where the assumption of consistent military benefits from rebel rule may be balanced against rebel rulers' aims of social transformation. In addressing the latter, she establishes a conceptual framework for governance strategies that encompass the intensiveness and/or extensiveness of rebel groups' programs and institutions. The book begins with the Chinese model, itself both intensive and extensive, which has provided a prototype for transformative rebel rule. Subsequent chapters explain the conceptual framework and apply the research design to empirical cases from Eritrea and East Timor to the Middle East: Hezbollah being an interesting example of the Chinese model applied to jihadist rule. The book employs a mixed methods approach that is theoretically and methodologically impressive and qualitatively rich. Stewart writes engagingly about the choices made by rebel rulers engaged in social transformation, balancing the need for legitimacy among a civilian population against rebel rulers' commitments to a revolutionary project.