Grist to the mill of subversion: strikes and coups in counterinsurgencies

Publikation: Beiträge in ZeitschriftenZeitschriftenaufsätzeForschungbegutachtet


Why are acts of organized resistance associated with coups? Inspired by the Arab Spring, a large literature suggests that militaries confronted with civil resistance tend to side with protesters and oust their government. In the historically most coup-prone environment of insurgencies, however, alliances between the military and protesters are implausible because soldiers suspect insurgents behind social dissent. Disentangling different types of resistance, this article analyzes whether and how strikes, demonstrations, riots, and guerrilla attacks affect the military’s disposition and ability to stage a coup during counterinsurgencies. We argue that only strikes trigger coup attempts. Soldiers interpret strikes as manifestations of a strengthening subversive enemy that threatens their victory over insurgents, while economic elites support a coup in the hope that the military will terminate costly walkouts. This interest alignment fosters military takeovers. We provide case-study evidence from Cold War Argentina and Venezuela to show our suggested mechanism at work. Demonstrating the scope of our argument, we quantitatively analyze coup attempts in counterinsurgency worldwide (1950–2005). Results show that strikes increase wartime coup risk, whereas demonstrations, riots, and guerrilla attacks do not. The findings highlight the backfiring potential of nonviolent resistance with important implications for post-coup political orders and democratization prospects.

ZeitschriftEuropean Journal of International Relations
Seiten (von - bis)1032-1060
Anzahl der Seiten29
PublikationsstatusErschienen - 01.12.2020

Bibliographische Notiz

The author(s) received financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: The authors acknowledge financial support from the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013)/ERC Grant 336019 and the University of Mannheim’s Graduate School of Economic and Social Sciences.