The calculus of fear: Revolution, repression, and the rational peasant


While the struggle between governments and rebel elites has been the focus of many analyses, little focus has been placed on the individual peasant. Using consumer choice theory, we model the rational peasant's behavior under various conditions of conflict between the warring factions. This paradigm allows us to investigate the changes in individual behavior when, for example, the government increases its sanctions against those supporting the rebels. If rebel-provided benefits are perceived as normal goods by the peasant, an increase in government sanctions has the expected effect of diminishing rebel support. However, if these benefits are perceived as being strongly inferior, then an increase in government sanctions against rebel support could, paradoxically, lead to an increase in rebel support. In addition, this analysis includes a measure of loyalty for the rebels that yields results consistent with this Giffen good outcome. The implication for government action in this case is to subsidize peasants, rather than punish them, if a decrease in rebel support is the desired outcome.

Publication Title

Social Science Quarterly

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