Governing For Revolution: Social Transformation in Civil War

Cambridge University Press, 2021

Although prevailing views suggest rebels govern to enhance their organizational capacity, this book demonstrates that some rebels undertake burdensome governance that can imperil their cadres during war. The origins for this choice rest with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) during the Chinese Civil War.  Unlike most earlier rebel groups, the CCP knowingly introduced challenging governance projects during war, causing a fundamental discontinuity from previous rebel organizations. Despite civilian resistance to these projects, the CCP nevertheless propagated its costly wartime governance strategy globally, creating a strategic model cognitively available to almost all active and future rebel leaders. What determines if rebel leaders imitate this model--including its costly governance that could be saved until after war's end--is the transformative nature of the organization’s long-term goals. Only rebel groups whose leaders share the CCP’s similarly transformative, revolutionary ambitions decide to imitate the CCP’s model. Over time, select international actors' expectations converged upon the CCP's behavioral template as the appropriate course of action for rebels with more transformative goals. As a result of this convergence, rebel groups increasingly could reap material and ideational rewards for their conformity to the CCP’s model, further reinforcing rebels' mimetic choices. Reduced compatibilities between the transformativity of rebel groups’ goals and the CCP’s objectives reduces the extent to which these leaders decide to imitate the CCP’s behavior. Using archival data from six countries, primary rebel sources, fieldwork, and quantitative analysis, Governing for Revolution underscores the mimicry of and ultimate convergence in revolutionary rebels’ governance, despite vast differences in ideology, that persists even today.

Awards and Honors: Shortlisted for Conflict Research Society Book of the Year (2022)

Learn more about the book in my interview with the New Book's Network Podcast.

Qualitative Appendix

Quantitative Appendix

Replication Data and Code


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Governing for Revolution_cover.jpg
Governing for Revolution_cover.jpg

EPLF Program, 1977