The Cross-National Diffusion of Popular Mobilizations Against Authoritarian Rulers: Comparing 1989, the Color Revolutions and the Arab Uprisings
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Central to the analysis of diffusion is identifying what is being diffused and explaining why that innovation travels across units. In this talk, Valerie Bunce compares three cross-national waves of popular mobilizations against authoritarian rulers over the past quarter of a century – that is, 1989, the color revolutions and the Arab uprisings – in order to address precisely those questions.
What is striking about these three waves is, first, that the strategies used to challenge authoritarian rulers varied so much – not just among these waves, but also across them. In particular, we see four such strategies: popular protests, roundtables, electoral challenges and challenges that combined elections with post-election protests. She argues that two variables account for these four successful strategies: whether the authoritarian regime was competitive or non-competitive and whether the regime was hard-line or soft-line. Second, these waves featured two different drivers: demonstration effects and transnational networks. However, they also reveal the importance of a third factor – the movement of the challenge to authoritarian rulers early in the dynamic to a country that was, in contrast to the early riser, ideally-positioned to make the wave “a wave”. Here, she compares the role of East Germany in 1989; Serbia in the color revolutions and Egypt in the Arab uprisings.
Valerie Bunce is the Aaron Binenkorb Professor of International Studies and Professor of Government at Cornell University.