Rebellion, uprising, or insurrection is a refusal of obedience or
order. It refers to the open resistance against the orders of an
established authority. The term comes from the Latin verb rebellō, "I
renew war" (from re- ("again") + bellō ("I wage war/I revolt"). The
rebel is the individual that partakes in rebellion or rebellious
activities, particularly when armed. Thus, the term rebellion also
refers to the ensemble of rebels in a state of revolt.
A rebellion originates from a sentiment of indignation and disapproval
of a situation and then manifests itself by the refusal to submit or
to obey the authority responsible for this situation.
1 Causes of rebellion
1.1 Macro approach
1.1.1 Marxist insight 1.1.2 Ted Gurr: Roots of political violence 1.1.3 Charles Tilly: Centrality of collective action 1.1.4 Chalmers Johnson and societal values 1.1.5 Theda Skocpol and the Autonomy of the State
1.2 Microfoundational Evidence on the Causes of Rebellion
1.2.1 The Rational Individual : the Political Economy Argument
18.104.22.168 The opportunity cost of rebellion 22.214.171.124 Selective incentives based on group membership 126.96.36.199 The greed vs grievance model
1.2.2 The Moral Individual: the Moral Economy Argument
188.8.131.52 Early conceptualization:
E. P. Thompson
2 Recruitment 3 Classification of rebellion 4 See also 5 Notes 6 References
Causes of rebellion
The following theories broadly build on the Marxist interpretation of
rebellion. They explore the causes of rebellion from a wide lens
Decremental deprivation: one's capacities' decrease when expectations remain high. One example of this is the proliferation and thus depreciation of the value of higher education. Aspirational Deprivation: one's capacities stay the same when expectations rise. An example would be a first generation college student lacking the contacts and network to obtain a higher paying job while watching her better-prepared colleagues bypass her. Progressive deprivation: expectation and capabilities increase but the former cannot keep up. A good example would be an automotive worker being increasingly marginalized by the automatisation of the assembly line.
Anger is thus comparative. One of his key insight is that "The potential for collective violence varies strongly with the intensity and scope of relative deprivation among members of a collectivity". This means that different individuals within society will have different propensities to rebel based on their particular internalization of their situation. As such, Gurr differentiates between three types of political violence:
Turmoil when only the mass population encounters relative deprivation; Conspiracy when the population but especially the elite encounters relative deprivation; Internal War, which includes revolution. In this case, the degree of organization is much higher than turmoil, and the revolution is intrinsically spread to all sections of society, unlike the conspiracy.
Charles Tilly: Centrality of collective action
In From Mobilization to Revolution,
The polity model takes into account government and groups jockeying for control over power. Thus, both the organizations holding power and the ones challenging them are included. Tilly labels those two groups "members" and "challengers". The mobilization model aims to describe the behavior of one single party to the political struggle for power. Tilly further divides the model in two sub-categories, one that deals with the internal dynamics of the group, and the other that is concerned with the "external relations" of the entity with other organizations and/or the government. According to Tilly, the cohesiveness of a group mainly relies on the strength of common interests and the degree of organization. Thus, to answer Gurr, anger alone does not automatically create political violence. Political action is contingent on the capacity to organize and unite. It is far from irrational and spontaneous.
Revolutions are included in this theory, although they remain for
Tilly particularly extreme since the challenger(s) aim for nothing
less than full control over power. The "revolutionary moment
occurs when the population needs to choose to obey either the
government or an alternative body who is engaged with the government
in a zero sum game. This is what Tilly calls "multiple
sovereignty". The success of a revolutionary movement hinges on
"the formation of coalitions between members of the polity and the
contenders advancing exclusive alternative claims to control over
Chalmers Johnson and societal values
For Chalmers Johnson, rebellions are not so much the product of
political violence or collective action but in "the analysis of
viable, functioning societies". In a quasi-biological manner,
Johnson sees revolutions as symptoms of pathologies within the
societal fabric. A healthy society, meaning a "value-coordinated
social system" does not experience political violence. Johnson's
equilibrium is at the intersection between the need for society adapt
to changes but at the same time firmly grounded in selective
fundamental values. The legitimacy of a political order, he posits,
relies exclusively on its compliance with these societal values and in
its capacity to integrate and adapt to any change. Rigidity is, in
other words, inadmissible. Johnson writes "to make a revolution is to
accept violence for the purpose of causing the system to change; more
exactly, it is the purposive implementation of a strategy of violence
in order to effect a change in social structure". The aim of a
revolution is to re-align a political order on new societal values
introduced by an externality that the system itself has not been able
to process. Rebellions automatically must face a certain amount of
coercion because by becoming "de-synchronized", the now illegitimate
political order will have to use coercion to maintain its position. A
simplified example would be the French
The Collapse of the Old-Regime State: this is an automatic consequence of certain structural conditions. She highlights the importance of international military and economic competition as well as the pressure of the misfunctioning of domestic affairs. More precisely, she sees the breakdown of the governing structures of society influenced by two theoretical actors, the "landed upper class" and the "imperial state". Both could be considered as "partners in exploitation" but in reality competed for resources: the state (monarchs) seek to build up military and economic power to ascertain their geopolitical influence. The upper class works in a logic of profit maximization, meaning preventing as much as possible the state to extract resources. All three revolutions occurred, Skocpol argues, because states failed to be able to "mobilize extraordinary resources from the society and implement in the process reforms requiring structural transformations". The apparently contradicting policies were mandated by a unique set of geopolitical competition and modernization. "Revolutionary political crises occurred because of the unsuccessful attempts of the Bourbon, Romanov, and Manchu regimes to cope with foreign pressures." Skocpol further concludes "the upshot was the disintegration of centralized administrative and military machineries that had theretofore provided the sole unified bulwark of social and political order". Peasant Uprisings: more than simply a challenge by the landed upper class in a difficult context, the state needs to be challenged by mass peasant uprisings in order to fall. These uprisings must be aimed not at the political structures per se but at the upper class itself, so that the political revolution becomes a social one as well. Skocpol quotes Barrington Moore who famously wrote: "peasants [...] provided the dynamite to bring down the old building". Peasant uprisings are more effective depending on two given structural socioeconomic conditions: the level of autonomy (from both an economic and political point of view) peasant communities enjoy, and the degree of direct control the upper class on local politics. In other words, peasants must be able to have some degree of agency in order to be able to rebel. If the coercive structures of the state and/or the landowners keep a very close check on peasant activity, then there is no space to forment dissent. Societal Transformation: this is the third and decisive step after the state organization has been seriously weakened and peasant revolts become widespread against landlords. The paradox of the three revolutions Skocpol studies is that stronger centralized and bureaucratic states emerge after the revolts. The exact parameters depend, again, on structural factors as opposed to voluntarist factors: in Russia, the new state found most support in the industrial base, rooting itself in cities. In China, most of the support for the revolt had been in the countryside, thus the new polity was grounded in rural areas. In France, the peasantry was not organized enough, and the urban centers not potent enough so that the new state was not firmly grounded in anything, partially explaining its artificiality.
Here is a summary of the causes and consequences of social revolutions in these three countries, according to Skocpol:
Conditions for Political Crises (A)
Power Structure State of Agrarian Economy International Pressures
France Landed-commercial upper class has moderate influence on the absolutist monarchy via bureaucracy Moderate growth Moderate, pressure from England
Russia Landed nobility has no influence in absolutist state Extensive growth, geographically unbalanced Extreme, string of defeats culminating with WW1
China Landed-commercial upper class has moderate influence on absolutist state via bureaucracy Slow growth Strong, imperialist intrusions
Conditions for Peasant Insurrections (B)
Organization of Agrarian Communities Autonomy of Agrarian Communities
France Peasants own 30-40% of the land own and must pay tribute to the feudal landlord Relatively autonomous, distant control from royal officials
Russia Peasants own 60% of the land, pay rent to landowners that are part of the community Sovereign, supervised by the bureaucracy
China Peasants own 50% of the land and pay rent to the landowners, work exclusively on small plots, no real peasant community Landlords dominate local politics under the supervision of Imperial officials
Societal Transformations (A + B)
France Breakdown of absolutist state, important peasant revolts against feudal system
Russia Failure of top-down bureaucratic reforms, eventual dissolution of the state and widespread peasant revolts against all privately owned land
China Breakdown of absolutist state, disorganized peasant upheavals but no autonomous revolts against landowners
Microfoundational Evidence on the Causes of Rebellion The following theories are all based on Mancur Olson's work in The Logic of Collective Action,a 1965 book that conceptualizes the inherent problem with an activity that has concentrated costs and diffuse benefits. In this case, the benefits of rebellion are seen as a public good, meaning one that is non-excludable and non-rivalrous. Indeed, the political benefits are generally shared by all in society if a rebellion is successful, not just the individuals that have partaken in the rebellion itself. Olson thus challenges the assumption that simple interests in common are all that is necessary for collective action. In fact, he argues the "free rider" possibility, a term that means to reap the benefits without paying the price, will deter rational individuals from collective action. That is, unless there is a clear benefit, a rebellion will not happen en masse. Thus, Olson shows that "selective incentives", only made accessible to individuals participating in the collective effort, can solve the free rider problem. The Rational Individual : the Political Economy Argument Main article: The Rational Peasant: The Political Economy of Rural Society in Vietnam Samuel L. Popkin builds on Olson's argument in The Rational Peasant: The Political Economy of Rural Society in Vietnam. His theory is based on the figure of a hyper rational peasant that bases his decision to join (or not) a rebellion uniquely on a cost-benefit analysis. This formalist view of the collective action problem stresses the importance of individual economic rationality and self-interest: a peasant, according to Popkin, will disregard the ideological dimension of a social movement and focus instead on whether or not it will bring any practical benefit to him. According to Popkin, peasant society is based on a precarious structure of economic instability. Social norms, he writes, are "malleable, renegotiated, and shifting in accord with considerations of power and strategic interaction among individuals" Indeed, the constant insecurity and inherent risk to the peasant condition, due to the peculiar nature of the patron-client relationship that binds the peasant to his landowner, forces the peasant to look inwards when he has a choice to make. Popkin argues that peasants rely on their "private, family investment for their long run security and that they will be interested in short term gain vis-à-vis the village. They will attempt to improve their long-run security by moving to a position with higher income and less variance". Popkin stresses this "investor logic" that one may not expect in agrarian societies, usually seen as pre-capitalist communities where traditional social and power structures prevent the accumulation of capital. Yet, the selfish determinants of collective action are, according to Popkin, a direct product of the inherent instability of peasant life. The goal of a laborer, for example, will be to move to a tenant position, then smallholder, then landlord; where there is less variance and more income. Voluntarism is thus non-existent in such communities. Popkin singles out four variables that impact individual participation:
Contribution to the expenditure of resources: collective action has a cost in terms of contribution, and especially if it fails (an important consideration with regards to rebellion) Rewards : the direct (more income) and indirect (less oppressive central state) rewards for collective action Marginal impact of the peasant's contribution to the success of collective action Leadership "viability and trust" : to what extent the resources pooled will be effectively used.
Without any moral commitment to the community, this situation will
engineer free riders. Popkin argues that selective incentives are
necessary to overcome this problem.
The opportunity cost of rebellion
Political Scientist Christopher Blattman and World Bank economist
Laura Alston identify rebellious activity as an "occupational
choice". They draw a parallel between criminal activity and
rebellion, arguing that the risks and potential payoffs an individual
must calculate when making the decision to join such a movement
remains similar between the two activities. In both cases, only a
selected few reap important benefits, while most of the members of the
group do not receive similar payoffs. The choice to rebel is
inherently linked with its opportunity cost, namely what an individual
is ready to give up in order to rebel. Thus, the available options
beside rebellious or criminal activity matter just as much as the
rebellion itself when the individual makes the decision. Blattman and
Alston, however, recognize that "a poor person's best strategy" might
be both rebellion illicit and legitimate activities at the same
time. Individuals, they argue, can often have a varied
"portofolio" of activities, suggesting that they all operate on a
rational, profit maximizing logic. The authors conclude that the best
way to fight rebellion is to increase its opportunity cost, both by
more enforcement but also by minimizing the potential material gains
of a rebellion.
Selective incentives based on group membership
The decision to join a rebellion can be based on the prestige and
social status associated with membership in the rebellious group. More
than material incentives for the individual, rebellions offer their
members club goods, public goods that are reserved only for the
members inside that group. Economist
Eli Berman and Political
Scientist David D. Laitin's study of radical religious groups show
that the appeal of club goods can help explain individual membership.
Berman and Laitin discuss suicide operations, meaning acts that have
the highest cost for an individual. They find that in such a
framework, the real danger to an organization is not volunteering but
preventing defection. Furthermore, the decision to enroll in such high
stakes organization can be rationalized. Berman and Laitin show
that religious organizations supplant the state when it fails to
provide an acceptable quality of public goods such a public safety,
basic infrastructure, access to utilities, or schooling. Suicide
operations "can be explained as a costly signal of “commitment” to
the community". They further note "Groups less adept at extracting
signals of commitment (sacrifices) may not be able to consistently
enforce incentive compatibility." Thus, rebellious groups can
organize themselves to ask of members proof of commitment to the
cause. Club goods serve not so much to coax individuals into joining
but to prevent defection.
The greed vs grievance model
Vollier and Hoeffler find that the model based on grievance variables
systematically fails to predict past conflicts, while the model based
on greed performs well. The authors posit that the high cost of risk
to society is not taken into account seriously by the grievance model:
individuals are fundamentally risk-adverse. However, they allow that
conflicts create grievances, which in turn can become risk factors.
Contrary to established beliefs, they also find that a multiplicity of
ethnic communities make society safer, since individuals will be
automatically more cautious, at the opposite of the grievance model
predictions. Finally, the authors also note that the grievances
expressed by members of the diaspora of a community in turmoil has an
important on the continuation of violence. Both greed and
grievance thus need to be included in the reflection.
The Moral Individual: the Moral Economy Argument
Main article: The Moral Economy of the Peasant:
Intrinsic incentives holds that "injustice or perceived transgression
generates an intrinsic willingness to punish or seek retribution".
More than material rewards, individuals are naturally and
automatically prompted to fight for justice if they feel they have
been wronged. The ultimatum game is an excellent illustration: player
one receives $10 and must split it with another player who doesn't get
the chance to determine how much he receives, but only if the deal is
made or not (if he refuses, everyone loses their money). Rationally,
player 2 should take whatever the deal is because it is better in
absolute term ($1 more remains $1 more). However, player 2 is most
likely unwilling to accept less than 2 or 2 dollars, meaning that they
are willing to pay a-$2 for justice to be respected. This game,
according to Blattman and Ralston, represents "the expressive pleasure
people gain from punishing an injustice".
Recruitment Stathis N. Kalyvas, a political science professor at Yale University, argues that political violence is heavily influenced by hyperlocal socio-economic factors, from the mundane traditional family rivalries to repressed grudges. Rebellion, or any sort of political violence, are not binary conflicts but must be understood as interactions between public and private identities and actions. The "convergence of local motives and supralocal imperatives" make studying and theorizing rebellion a very complex affair, at the intersection between the political and the private, the collective and the individual. Kalyvas argues that we often try to group political conflicts according to two structural paradigms:
The idea that political violence, and more specifically rebellion, is characterized by a complete breakdown of authority and an anarchic state. This is inspired by Thomas Hobbes' views. The approach sees rebellion as being motivated by greed and loot, using violence to break down the power structures of society. The idea that all political violence is inherently motivated by an abstract group of loyalties and beliefs, "whereby the political enemy becomes a private adversary only by virtue of prior collective and impersonal enmity". Violence is thus not a "man to man" affair as much as a :state to state" struggle, if not an "idea vs idea" conflict.
Kalyvas' key insight is that the central vs periphery dynamic is fundamental in political conflicts. Any individual actor, Kalyvas posits, enters into a calculated alliance with the collective. Rebellions thus cannot be analyzed in molar categories, nor should we assume that individuals are automatically in line with the rest of the actors simply by virtue of ideological, religious, ethnic, or class cleavage. The agency is located both within the collective and in the individual, in the universal and the local. Kalyvas writes: "Alliance entails a transaction between supralocal and local actors, whereby the former supply the later with external muscle, thus allowing them to win decisive local advantage, in exchange the former rely on local conflicts to recruit and motivate supporters and obtain local control, resources, and information- even when their ideological agenda is opposed to localism". Individuals will thus aim to use the rebellion in order to gain some sort of local advantage, while the collective actors will aim to gain power. Violence is a mean as opposed to a goal, according to Kalyvas. The greater takeaway from this central/local analytical lens is that violence is not an anarchic tactic or a manipulation by an ideology, but a conversation between the two. Rebellions are "concatenations of multiple and often disparate local cleavages, more or less loosely arranged around the master cleavage". Any pre-conceived explanation or theory of a conflict must not be placated on a situation, lest one will construct a reality that adapts itself to his pre-conceived idea. Kalyvas thus argues that political conflict is not always political in the sense that they cannot be reduced to a certain discourse, decisions, or ideologies from the "center" of collective action. Instead, the focus must be on "local cleavages and intracommunity dynamics". Furthermore, rebellion is not "a mere mechanism that opens up the floodgates to random and anarchical private violence". Rather, it is the result of a careful and precarious alliance between local motivations and collective vectors to help the individual cause. Classification of rebellion
See also: List of revolutions and rebellions
This section needs expansion with: Correcting the abstractions and anecdotes, and write a comprehensive overview of the classification of rebellion.. You can help by adding to it. (May 2016)
An armed but limited rebellion is an insurrection, and if the
established government does not recognize the rebels as belligerents
then they are insurgents and the revolt is an insurgency. In a
larger conflict the rebels may be recognized as belligerents without
their government being recognized by the established government, in
which case the conflict becomes a civil war.
Civil resistance, civil disobedience, and nonviolent resistance which do not include violence or paramilitary force . Mutiny, which is carried out by military or security forces against their commanders Armed resistance movement, which is carried out by freedom fighters, often against an occupying foreign power Revolt, a term that is sometimes used for a more localized rebellions rather than a general uprising Revolution, which is carried out by radicals, usually meant to overthrow the current government Riot, a form of civil disorder involving violent public disturbance Subversion, which are non-overt attempts at sabotaging a government, carried out by spies or other subversives Terrorism, which is carried out by different kinds of political, economic or religious militant individuals or groups
List of revolutions and rebellions
^ Lalor, John Joseph (1884). Cyclopædia of Political Science,
Political Economy, and of the Political ... Rand, McNally.
^ Skocpol 1979, p. 291.
^ Skocpol 1979, p. 7.
^ Skocpol 1979, p. 8.
^ Gurr 1970, p. 3.
^ Gurr 1970, p. 37.
^ Gurr 1970, p. 47.
^ Gurr 1970, p. 52.
^ Gurr 1970, p. 53.
^ Gurr 1970, p. 24.
^ Gurr 1970, p. 11.
^ Tilly 1978, p. 54.
^ Tilly 1978, p. ch3.
^ Tilly 1978, p. ch7.
^ a b Tilly 1978, p. 213.
^ Johnson 1966, p. 3.
^ Johnson 1966, p. 36.
^ Johnson 1966, p. 57.
^ Johnson 1966, p. 32.
^ Skocpol 1979, p. 4.
^ Skocpol 1979, p. 49.
^ a b Skocpol 1979, p. 50.
^ Skocpol 1979, p. 51.
^ Skocpol 1979, p. 112.
^ Skocpol 1979, p. 162.
^ Skocpol 1979, p. 155.
^ Olson 1965, p. 9.
^ Olson 1965, p. 76.
^ Popkin 1979, p. 22.
^ Popkin 1979, p. 23.
^ Popkin 1979, p. 34.
^ Blattman and Rason 2015, p. 22.
^ a b c Blattman and Rason 2015, p. 23.
^ Berman and Laitin 2008, p. 1965.
^ Berman and Laitin 2008, p. 1944.
^ Berman and Laitin 2008, p. 1943.
^ Berman and Laitin 2008, p. 1954.
^ a b c Collier and Hoeffler 2002, p. 26.
^ Collier and Hoeffler 2002, p. 27.
^ Scott 1976, p. 6.
^ Thompson, E. P. (1971-01-01). "The Moral Economy of the English
Crowd in the Eighteenth Century". Past & Present (50): 76–136.
^ Thompson, E. P. (1993-08-01). Customs in Common: Studies in
Traditional Popular Culture. The New Press.
^ Scott 1976, p. 15.
^ Scott 1976, p. 13.
^ Scott 1976, p. 193.
^ a b Blattman and Rason 2015, p. 24.
^ a b c Blattman and Rason 2015, p. 25.
^ Blattman and Rason 2015, p. 26.
^ a b c d Kalyvas 2003, p. 476.
^ Kalyvas 2003, p. 475.
^ a b c d Kalyvas 2003, p. 486.
^ a b Kalyvas 2003, p. 487.
^ Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition, 1989. Insurrection: "The
action of rising in arms or open resistance against established
authority or governmental restraint; with pl., an instance of this, an
armed rising, a revolt; an incipient or limited rebellion."
^ Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition, 1989. Insurgent "One who
rises in revolt against constituted authority; a rebel who is not
recognized as a belligerent."
^ Hall, Kermit L.The Oxford Guide to United States Supreme Court
Decisions, Oxford University Press US, 2001. ISBN 0-19-513924-0,
ISBN 978-0-19-513924-2 pp. 246,247 "In supporting Lincoln on this
issue, the Supreme Court upheld his theory of the Civil War as an
insurrection against the United States government that could be
suppressed according to the rules of war. In this way the United
States was able to fight the war as if it were an international war,
without actually having to recognize the de jure existence of the
^ See the chapters by specialists on the various above-cited cases of
civil resistance in Adam Roberts and
Timothy Garton Ash
Scott, James C. (November 16, 1976). The Moral Economy of the Peasant:
v t e
Authoritarian personality Bandwagon effect Collectivism Coercive persuasion Consensus reality Contagion
Behavioral Crime Hysterical Suicide
Groupthink Hazing Herd mentality Indoctrination Memory conformity Milieu control Mobbing Nationalism Normalization Normative social influence Ostracism Panopticon Patriotism Peer pressure Peer review Pluralistic ignorance Propaganda Right-wing authoritarianism Scapegoating Shunning Social influence Socialization Spiral of silence Teasing Tyranny of the majority Xeer
Compliance Countersignaling Herd behavior Internalisation Social proof Obedience
Asch conformity experiments Milgram experiment Stanford prison experiment
Anti-authoritarianism Antisocial tendencies Auto-segregation Civil disobedience Cosmopolitanism Counterculture Culture jamming Deviance Eclecticism Eccentricity Hermit Idiosyncrasy Individualism Rebellion Ritual clown