Threat and Repression: The Non-Linear Relationship between Government and Opposition Violence

Scott Sigmund Gartner, Patrick M. Regan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

135 Scopus citations

Abstract

An understanding of the causes of political repression has continually eluded researchers for the past decade. We argue that much of this can be tied to the theoretical specifications of the models employed. We developed a decision-theoretic model that predicts the level of repression used by governments to suppress political opposition. We believe that analysis of repression needs to include the political contexts in which states operate. In particular, we theorize and find that the nature of the threat posed by an opposition group influences the impact of both the domestic and international factors on the government's decision to repress. We argue that the international and domestic costs associated with a given level of government repression are best represented by separate, non-linear functions of the level of demand made by a dissident opposition group. From this model we deduce an equilibrium level of repression for any given demand; we then empirically test these predictions against original data generated from 18 Latin American countries during the years 1977-86. We find that as the nature of the threat posed by an opposition group moves from minor to extreme, the marginal increment of government repression decreases. Analyses of these data support our theoretical propositions, and suggest that both non-linear approaches and the inclusion of opposition group demands provide a useful tool for studying state repression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)273-287
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Peace Research
Volume33
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 1996

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Safety Research
  • Political Science and International Relations

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