Military Conscription and Nonviolent Resistance

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Nonviolent campaigns against repressive regimes often turn on the military’s decision to either defend the ruler or make common cause with the ruled. Yet surprisingly little scholarship investigates opposition expectations for the military’s likely response to mass protest. We theorize that some determinants of the military’s willingness to repress are more observable to activists than others. In particular, we identify conscription as a highly salient indicator that soldiers will refuse to fire on protesters and hypothesize that nonviolent campaigns are more likely to materialize against regimes with conscripted armies than those with volunteer forces. We substantiate this theory with two sources of evidence: (1) a survey experiment conducted during the 2019 Algerian Revolution and (2) a cross-national analysis of the positive association between conscription and nonviolent campaign onset from 1945 to 2013.




Cebul, M. D., & Grewal, S. (2022). Military Conscription and Nonviolent Resistance. Comparative Political Studies.

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