Promises Betrayed? Ideological Commitments and Revolutionary Outcomes

Matthew Toro, University of Washington
Steven Pfaff, University of Washington, Seattle

Why do some revolutions end in dictatorship and others in democracy? Selectorate theory argues the incentives leaders face in the struggle for political survival shapes the decisions they make on post-revolutionary institutional forms. Yet the theory predicts that only the scale of victory and its attribution help us understand revolutionary outcomes. Instead, we argue the role of ideology, specified as a consistent and explicit vision for a future polity, has been largely ignored when considering the shape of post-revolutionary institutions. Prior ideological commitments by revolutionary challengers cannot be ignored as they facilitate a winning coalition and subsequently constrain the range of political choices available to winners. Specifically, we critique selectorate theory's claim that ideology only operates as a mobilization variable. Rather, we show that it conditions plausible coalition partners, informs allocation decisions made by leaders, and defines the acceptable scale and attribution of victory to begin with. Employing historical cases to illustrate our argument, we show that ideological commitments by revolutionary leaders have been crucial factors not only affecting their political survival but also the subsequent institutions that developed out of revolutionary situations.

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 Presented in Session 152. Revolutionary Outcomes and Intellectual Commitments