The Punisher's Dilemma

de Mesquita, B, Myatt, D P, Smith, A and Tyson, S (2024) The Punisher's Dilemma. Journal of Politics, 86 (2). pp. 395-411. ISSN 0022-3816


We develop a theory of resistance and repression in which citizens face a coordination problem and participation in collective resistance must be large enough for a government to concede rather than repress citizens who participate. Repression is costly for both citizens (the punished) and the government (the punisher). Harsher punishments can sometimes raise participation via a strategic-feedback channel that follows from the credibility of implementing repression: a higher cost to the punisher makes a government less willing to repress larger resistance, and this can encourage citizens’ coordinated participation. We identify three factors that determine whether this channel dominates: the shape of the response of the government’s costs to the intensity and scale of repression, the presence of selective incentives, and the presence or absence of focal optimism. We examine a government’s desired choice of repression technology and the response of the social cost of political instability to harsher punishments.

More Details

Item Type: Article
Subject Areas: Economics
Date Deposited: 15 Jan 2024 11:52
Last Modified: 13 May 2024 10:12

Export and Share


Full text not available from this repository.


View details on Dimensions' website

Downloads from LBS Research Online

View details

Actions (login required)

Edit Item Edit Item