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Sociology Department Talk: Killian Clarke

December 5, 2019 - 12:30pm
McClatchy Hall, Building 120, Studio 40

Please join us for a colloquium being given by Killian Clarke from Princeton University.

Overthrowing Revolution: The Emergence and Success of Counterrevolution

This study considers the phenomenon of counterrevolution, and seeks to answer two specific questions: under what conditions do counterrevolutions emerge? And when do they succeed? I find that counterrevolutionary challenges have historically been fairly common, occurring after roughly half of all revolutions since 1900. But only 18% of revolutions have actually been overthrown by counterrevolutions. I explain these patterns with a theory that centers on the power advantage revolutionaries typically enjoy over the old regime. Revolutionaries accrue significant resources while overthrowing the old regime, and when they come to office they can draw on these resources to weather even fierce counterrevolutionary threats. For this reason, I argue that counterrevolutionary strength can explain the emergence of counterrevolution, but explaining success requires us to focus on how well new revolutionary governments keep and consolidate their hard-won power. To evaluate this theory I first conduct a focused case study of Egypt’s 2013 counterrevolution. Drawing on nearly one hundred interviews with Egyptian elites and a dataset of eighteen months of protests sourced from an Egyptian Arabic-language newspaper (n = ~7,500), I trace how Egypt’s revolutionaries squandered their initial power advantage vis-à-vis the old regime's military. Next, I analyze cross-national trends using a dataset of all counterrevolutions globally since 1900 (n = 99). I find that counterrevolutions tend to emerge when the old regime survives with much of its resources intact, but that they succeed only in cases where revolutionaries lack or lose key resources. And I show that social revolutions are more resistant to counterrevolutions than democratic revolutions because of the types of resources that they generate for new revolutionary governments.