Fear and citizen coordination against dictatorship

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Abstract

Despite numerous studies showing that emotions influence political decision making, there is scant literature giving a formal treatment to this phenomenon. This paper formalizes insights about how fear influences participation in risky collective action such as citizen revolt against an autocratic regime. To do so we build a global game and analyze the effects that fear may have on participation through increasing pessimism about the regime’s strength, increasing pessimism about the participation of others in the revolution, and increasing risk aversion. The impact of the first two effects of fear is a clear reduction in the probability that people will mobilize. However, an increase in risk aversion may in some circumstances increase the probability with which citizens will mobilize. These results may help explain the unpredictable reactions of citizens to fear appeals, including the threat of repressive violence.

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Aldama, A., Vásquez-Cortés, M., & Young, L. E. (2019). Fear and citizen coordination against dictatorship. Journal of Theoretical Politics, 31(1), 103–125. https://doi.org/10.1177/0951629818809425

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