Hit 'em Where It Hurts: Measuring and Testing the Impact of Economic Nonviolent Strategies on Democratization

Led by Petter Kristiansen Arnesen

Aug 2018 – Jun 2019

​Master's project in Comparative Politics at the University of Bergen.

Master's project in Comparative Politics at the University of Bergen.
Supervisor at PRIO: Håvard Mokleiv Nygård.
Supervisor at UIB: Michael Alvarez.

The literature on nonviolent political action has found that nonviolence far outpaces violence when it comes to winning political conflicts. Yet which actions nonviolent movements may perform to achieve success has rarely been studied. I argue that strategies which aim to limit the state’s economic capacity are likely to be effective, and test whether such economic strategies are predictive of democratization. I build upon both recent and classic nonviolence- and democratization literature to craft a theoretical narrative of why I expect economic nonviolent strategies to be effective. I then construct a measurement model for economic strategies using a novel combination of the Nonviolent and Violent Campaigns and Outcomes 3.0 dataset and Bayesian item response theory methods. Using the resulting latent variable of economic strategies as an independent variable, I test whether it is predictive of transitions to democracy using Bayesian logistic regression. I find that nonviolent political campaigns that use economic strategies are significantly more likely to cause a transition to democracy than those which do not – A one standard deviation-change in economic strategy corresponds to a 2.1 increase in the odds of democratization. My findings are relevant to the nonviolence- and democratization literature as well as for practitioners of nonviolent action and fill an important research gap in an innovative way.

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