Collective Action and Constraints on Repression at the Endgame

Tiberiu Dragu, Yonatan Lupu

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    How can human rights abuses be prevented or reduced? Using a simple game-theoretic model, we demonstrate that repression can become a coordination game when the potential for abuses is greatest: when dissent against a regime has grown sufficiently powerful. In such scenarios, repression depends on how the leader’s agents coordinate on implementing a repression order. If and to the extent agents believe other agents will not comply with an order to repress, leaders can expect agents to disobey orders and will be less likely to order repression. This logic of expectations constitutes a third mechanism for constraining repression, in addition to sanctioning (i.e., the logic of consequences) and normative mechanisms (i.e., the logic of appropriateness). We formally explore how the logic of expectations can constrain the implementation of repression and also show that the logic of expectations has the greatest potential to constrain repression in middle regimes or “anocracies.” In turn, this has broader implications for the strategies human rights advocates use in such regimes, how leaders structure their security forces, and for the study of why legal rules might be especially effective in such regimes.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)1042-1073
    Number of pages32
    JournalComparative Political Studies
    Issue number8
    StatePublished - Jul 1 2018


    • formal theory
    • human rights

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science


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