Tuesday, August 20, 2019

The Lockean Natural Punishment of Dictators Through Nonviolent Resistance

I have written many posts over the years on the Darwinian science of natural punishment in Lockean liberalism (herehere, here, herehereherehereherehereherehereherehereherehereherehereherehere, here, here, here, and here.)

The natural right to punish--the "executive power of the law of nature"--can be expressed in both violent and nonviolent resistance to tyranny.  Previously (here), I have written about Erica Chenoweth's research showing that since 1900, nonviolent resistance campaigns have been more than twice as likely to succeed as violent resistance movements, and that every campaign of nonviolent protest that achieved the active and sustained participation of just 3.5 percent of the population was successful.

Now, we have new research from Chenoweth (with her coauthor Margherita Belgioioso) adding to her theory of nonviolent resistance--"The Physics of Dissent and the Effects of Movement Momentum," just published online in Nature Human Behaviour (https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-019-0665-8).

Here is her abstract: "How do 'people power' movements succeed when modest proportions of the population participate?  Here we propose that the effects of social movements increase as they gain momentum.  We approximate a simple law drawn from physics: momentum equals mass times velocity (p = mv).  We propose that the momentum of dissent is a product of participation (mass) and the number of protest events in a week (velocity).  We test this simple physical proposition against panel data on the potential effects of movement momentum on irregular leader exit in African countries between 1990 and 2014, using a variety of estimation techniques.  Our findings show that social movements potentially compensate for relatively modest popular support by concentrating their activities in time, thus increasing their disruptive capacity.  Notably, these findings also provide a straight-forward way for dissidents to easily quantify their coercive potential by assessing their participation rates and increased concentration of their activities over time."

The database for this study is the Social Conflict in Africa Database (SCAD). There are some good databases for armed conflict such as the Uppsala University Armed Conflict Dataset, which collects global data on armed conflict as including state-based, non-state, and one-sided armed conflicts. What is novel about SCAD is that it is not limited to armed conflict, but includes social conflict such as nonviolent demonstrations and protests as well as violent riots.  The researchers have identified social conflict events in Africa by conducting keyword searches of Associated Press (AP) and Agence France Presse (AFP) news wires.  They looked for five terms: "protest," "riot," "strike," "violence," and "attack."  Between 1990 and 2010, they identified 7,200 distinct social conflict events (Idean Salehyan et al., "Social Conflict in Africa: A New Database," International Interactions 38 [2012]: 503-511).  For each event, they identified the start and end dates; and they determined the particular actor(s) involved, their target(s), and the issue(s) at stake.

In compiling their own dataset, Chenoweth and Belgioioso excluded violent events such as riots and included only nonviolent methods of dissent, such as protests and strikes.  They then went to the ARCHIGOS dataset, which has information on political leaders in 188 countries from 1875 to 2015, and they identified the dependent variable by looking for cases in which the leader lost power through "irregular means," defined as leader removal "in contravention of explicit rules and established conventions."

They found that in Africa from January 1, 1990, to January 1, 2014, there were 45 cases of leaders losing power through irregular means.  They then analyzed these 45 cases to see that in 21 cases, leaders were overthrown through assassinations or coups that were part of internal political maneuvers of the ruling elites outside the contest of any popular revolts, which left 24 cases of leaders forced out of power in response to peaceful popular protests.

In none of these 24 cases did participation in popular protests exceed 13.3% of the national population.  This confirms Chenoweth's earlier conclusion that nonviolent resistance can overthrow unpopular leaders even when the active protestors are only a small minority of the population.  But the main point of this new research is that peak participation rates alone are not sufficient to explain the success of social movements.  It is only when rising participation rates are combined with mobilization at a high velocity (measured as the number of protest events in a week) that a protest movement is likely to succeed.

In those 24 cases of leaders who fell from power in response to popular protests, the primary agents forcing their exit were military people, police, or other security personnel.  When those who are armed to protect the leader defect--perhaps by refusing to obey his orders to kill the protestors--then the leader must fall because he depends on the loyalty of his "minimum winning coalition"--particularly the military.  Even the most autocratic ruler cannot rule on his own without supporters.  (I have written about this here.)

Here we see the Machiavellianism of our chimpanzee politics: like chimps, human beings show three or four distinct political "humours"--the one, the few, and the many, and perhaps the military as a fourth humour.  The ambitious few want to rule over and oppress the people.  The many do not desire to rule or oppress, but they do desire to be free from the oppression of the few.  The one--the "prince"--rules as the alpha male who depends on the support of the few or of the people.  He can rule best through fear rather than love, but he must avoid the hatred of the people, because if he is hated, either he will be assassinated, or he will be overthrown by the ambitious few who see how vulnerable he is without the people's acquiescence in his rule.  That explains why Frans de Waal could not understand what he was observing in his chimpanzee community in the Arnhem Zoo until he read Machiavelli.

I have written about this in a previous post, which is illustrated by the case of Hosni Mubarak's fall from power in Egypt in 2011.

The overthrow of Mubarak is one of the 24 cases of successful nonviolent resistance in Chenoweth's study.  As Vice President of Egypt, Mubarak became President in 1981 after the assassination of President Anwar Sadat..  Mubarak himself was the target of at least a half-dozen assassination attempts.  So he understood Machiavelli's teaching that even the most powerful prince can be brought down by any assassin willing to die in an attack.  He also understood the importance of being feared, and he held his princely power for almost 30 years through a declaration of emergency law that allowed him to arrest and terrify his political opponents without any legal procedures.

His mistake, however, during the Arab Spring movement of 2011, was in failing to see that even if the prince is feared, he must avoid the hatred and contempt of the people.  He provoked popular demonstrations of protest that made him vulnerable to those ambitious few around him who were looking for the first opportunity to take his power from him.  His dependence on the military then left him open to the military decision to force him out of office.  The leaders of the Egyptian protestors had studied the techniques of nonviolent resistance--the techniques of Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and others, as presented in some books by Gene Sharp.

Mohamed Morsi was elected President of Egypt in 2012.  But then he too faced popular protests in 2013, and the military forced him out of power.

What one sees here in these cases of leaders being overthrown in Africa as analyzed by Chenoweth confirms Locke's account of how the natural desire to punish cheaters enforces government by consent of the governed, within a system of elite rule in which the people do not rule directly, but whose acquiescence to being ruled is required for elite rule.


Roger Sweeny said...

I counted 21 "heres" at the beginning of this post. I do not know what each particular "here" is about but it occurred to me that you must. You must have some system of looking up past posts and seeing which ones relate to the present one. Which led me to thinking ....

EducationRealist has an Encyclopedia of Ed, reachable from his sidebar. In it are all of his posts, with title and link. But what is so useful is that it puts all of his posts in categories and puts the categories in a sort of order. He says a little something about the categories and some of the posts. In a sense, he has turned the blog into a book.

It occurs to me that you could do something similar. People could "start at the beginning" or look, "What has Larry Arnhart said about X?" You could cite to it instead of 21 nondescript "heres".

(I'm assuming your blogging software allows you to have a second updatable page--or more--for the "Encyclopedia". You don't have a sidebar but you could put a link at the top in that introductory paragraph and I know you can put links in the posts.)

Jon said...

Roger: I think that tags would serve that purpose. I'd really be interested in reading old posts that discuss the comparability of Darwinian thought with the philosophies of Rosseau and philosophers who came after the Holy Alliance that defeated Napoleon; like Hegel.

I think that it was folks like that who inspired John C Calhoun and his dim view of natural rights.

Larry Arnhart said...

Google my name with any topic, and you will quickly pull up any old posts.

Roger Sweeny said...

Is that how you got the 21 "heres" at the beginning of the post? If so, did you search once or several times (e.g., "Larry Arnhart Lockean liberalism" and "Larry Arnhart punishment")?

Larry Arnhart said...

I will use some different key words, and then some of the posts will have links to others. I also have a "table of contents" listing all of the titles and dates of the posts. But with over 1200 posts, that takes time. Sometimes I will have a long list of links in a post, as in this one, because I am doing this for myself, pulling up all of the posts on a topic for a paper that I am writing.