International pressure, state repression, and the spread of protest

Mehdi Shadmehr, Raphael Boleslavsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


We analyze strategic interactions between a state that decides whether to repress activists and the general public that decides whether to protest following repression. The public would like to support activists who demand beneficial reforms, but it is uncertain about both the merit of the activists’ demands and the intentions behind the state’s repression. Multiple equilibria arise, suggesting an important role for social norms, which provides a rationale for the conflicting empirical findings on the determinants of repression and reform. We show that international pressure, which directly reduces the state’s ability to repress, can indirectly increase repression by shifting the public’s belief in favor of the state, thereby reducing its incentive to protest. To protect legitimate activists or promote positive reforms, international pressure must be sufficiently strong. Lukewarm international commitments at best achieve nothing, and at worst crowd out domestic checks on repression, generating the opposite of their intended effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Politics
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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