Violence, What is It Good for? Waves of Riotous-Violent Protest and Democracy

Deren Onursal, Adam Hobbs, and Catherine Wright

Under what conditions do riotous-violent protests increase the likelihood of protest
success? The protest literature has largely found that riotous-violent protests
(RVPs) are not effective. However, a burgeoning literature contradicts these findings.
We extend this literature by exploring how waves of RVPs increase the likelihood
of protest success. Protesters learn from past protest-government response
dyads, which reduces the costs of continued protest in the face of repression. The
temporal accumulation of riotous-violent protests exhausts the resources and collective
will of the regime to continually hold out on protester demands. Thus, as
the number of RVPs increases in a country-year, we expect there to be a coinciding
increase in instances of government accommodation. Furthermore, we argue that
democracy conditions the relationship between RVP frequency and protest success.
We conduct a cross-national observational data analysis of 119 countries from 1990
to 2019 using data from the Mass Mobilization Project. Our results support both
of our hypotheses.

Deren Onursal, Adam Hobbs & Catherine Wells (2024) Violence, what is it good for? Waves of riotous-violent protest and democracy, Democratization, DOI: 10.1080/13510347.2024.2302544