What explains patterns of compliance with and resistance to autocratic rule? I argue that the types of non-compliance observed in autocracies differ across societal groups as a function of the prevailing punishment regime applied to group members. When gathering information about opposition is costly, autocrats punish transgressions collectively, leading groups to cohere in a way that encourages cascades into rebellion. When the cost of gathering information about anti-regime behavior within the group is low, autocrats punish narrowly but levels of within-group cohesion are also low, encouraging individual acts of non-compliance. This framework is associated with a number of empirical regularities observed in Iraq under Saddam Hussein. Students living in predominantly Sunni areas - which shared a sectarian identification with the regime leadership and were, thus, highly legible to the regime - were less likely to join the Ba`th Party than their counterparts living in the Shi`a south. Southern areas populated by Shi`a Iraqs were more likely, however, to witness private forms of non-compliance, like the circulation of destabilizing rumors. Kurdish areas of the Iraqi north maintained an almost continuous state of insurgency since severe norms of collective punishment against Kurdish populations encouraged strong social networks and an “all-in" strategy of armed resistance
Lisa Blaydes is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Stanford University. She is the author of Elections and Distributive Politics in Mubarak’s Egypt (Cambridge University Press, 2011). Professor Blaydes received the 2009 Gabriel Almond Award for best dissertation in the field of comparative politics from the American Political Science Association for this project. Her articles have appeared in International Organization, Middle East Journal, and World Politics. During the 2008-9 and 2009-2010 academic years, Professor Blaydes was an Academy Scholar at the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies. She holds degrees in Political Science (PhD) from the University of California, Los Angeles and International Relations (BA, MA) from Johns Hopkins University.
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