The ties that bind: norms, networks, information, and the organization of political violence

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Christou, Odysseas

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The purpose of this dissertation is to investigate the role of social norms and social networks on the organization of political violence. Challenging traditional accounts of collective action, this dissertation presents an alternative theoretical framework of recruitment by organizations that aim to engage in political violence. The framework hypothesizes that the use of social norms and social networks can help overcome the collective action problem for such organizations by minimizing the need for selective incentive provision. The theoretical framework is applied to two in-depth historical case studies of the conflicts in Chechnya (1994–1996 and 1999–2009) and Sierra Leone (1991–2002). Each case study is composed of two analyses of the organization of political violence. In the case of Chechnya, the organization of Chechen resistance in the First Russo-Chechen War (1994–1996) and the organization of Chechen resistance in the Second Russo-Chechen War (1999–2009) are treated as separate units of analysis. In the case of Sierra Leone, the units of analysis are the Revolutionary United Front that initiated the Sierra Leonean Civil War in 1991, and the Civil Defense Forces that were organized in opposition to the Revolutionary United Front in the mid-1990s. The analysis of the results from the case studies supports the hypotheses of the theoretical framework. Both case studies exhibit significant within-case variation. In both cases, it is shown that use of the norms and networks of the sociopolitical environment within which the organizations of political violence operate has a favorable effect on successful recruitment, and that non-use of these mechanisms has a detrimental effect. In addition, the results have implications for current theoretical debates in the literature on domestic conflict, as well as policy-related implications for the potential for conflict mediation.




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