Hunger to Violence: Explaining the Violent Escalation of Nonviolent Demonstrations


Under what conditions do nonviolent demonstrations escalate to violence? I answer this question using a novel theory of individual impatience in protests that begin peacefully. Rather than considering protest groups as unitary actors, I present a theory of collective action in which a group’s decision over whether or not to engage in anti-government violence is the product of individual preferences. Individuals involved in a nonviolent demonstration use the immediacy of their needs and the sustainability of collective action to decide whether or not to initiate violence against the state. Specifically, I hypothesize that the likelihood of violent escalation will increase when the food price increases and unemployment rate is high or when the event is spontaneous. Analysis of a Bayesian multilevel model of 2,405 nonviolent demonstrations from 1991 to 2017 in Africa and Latin America supports my expectations.

Journal of Conflict Resolution
Daniel Gustafson
Daniel Gustafson
Postdoctoral Associate

Civil conflict, government repression, and Bayesian analysis