Governing for revolution: Social transformation in civil war

March 2021
Megan Stewart (University of Michigan)

Abstract: Prevailing views suggest rebels govern to enhance their organizational capacity, but this project demonstrates that some rebels undertake costly governance projects that can imperil their cadres during war. The origins for this choice began with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) during the Chinese Civil War. The CCP knowingly introduced challenging governance projects, but nevertheless propagated its strategy globally, creating a behavioral model readily available to later rebels. The likelihood of whether later rebels will imitate this model is determined by the compatibility between their goals and the CCP's objectives; only rebels that share the CCP's revolutionary goals decide to mimic the CCP's governance fully. Over time, ideational and material pressures further encouraged (and occasionally rewarded) revolutionary rebels' conformity to the CCP's template. 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, that persists even today, despite vast differences in ideology.