Institutions, Repression and the Spread of Protest

Mehdi Shadmehr (University of Miami)
Raphael Boleslavsky (University of Miami)

Abstract: We analyze the strategic interactions between a state that decides whether to repress a group of activists and the general public that decides whether to protest following repression. Strategic complementarities between the strategies of the public and the state generate multiple equilibria, suggesting a role for social norms. These results shed light on conflicting empirical findings regarding the determinants of repression. We investigate the effects of exogenous restrictions on repression, imposed by international institutions, showing that weak restrictions can paradoxically increase repression. This result provides a rationale for the puzzling empirical finding that international pressure can increase repression. Finally, we study the effects of endogenous restrictions, imposed by domestic institutions set up by the state to restrict its own subsequent repression. We characterize when the state can benefit from introducing such institutions, offering an explanation for the presence of partially independent judiciaries in authoritarian regimes.

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