Sparks and prairie fires: A theory of unanticipated political revolution

  title={Sparks and prairie fires: A theory of unanticipated political revolution},
  author={Timur Kuran},
  journal={Public Choice},
  • T. Kuran
  • Published 1 April 1989
  • Geography, Political Science
  • Public Choice
A feature shared by certain major revolutions is that they were not anticipated. Here is an explanation, which hinges on the observation that people who come to dislike their government are apt to hide their desire for change as long as the opposition seems weak. Because of this preference falsification, a government that appears unshakeable might see its support crumble following a slight surge in the opposition's apparent size, caused by events insignificant in and of themselves. Unlikely… Expand

Figures and Tables from this paper

Response to Howard and Walters
  • E. Bellin
  • Political Science
  • Perspectives on Politics
  • 2014
Surprise is an intrinsic fact of political life and its elimination, especially with regard to extraordinary moments of protest and revolution, is a vain endeavor. Prediction and explanation areExpand
The Inevitability of Future Revolutionary Surprises
  • T. Kuran
  • Sociology
  • American Journal of Sociology
  • 1995
Although social scientists have written extensively on revolutions, none of their theories has shown much predictive success in practice. Recent revolutions surprised social scientists as much asExpand
Why Are Contemporary Political Revolutions Leaderless? An Agent-Based Explanation
Simulations show that, without the use of social media, influential leaders are necessary to obtain a huge mass mobilization whereas, in the presence of a social network, it is possible to accomplish this result without the need of a strong political leadership. Expand
Now out of Never: The Element of Surprise in the East European Revolution of 1989
Like many major revolutions in history, the East European Revolution of 1989 caught its leaders, participants, victims, and observers by surprise. This paper offers an explanation whose crucialExpand
So You Say You Want a Revolution
Existing models of revolutions tend to focus only on the behavior of the revolutionaries and do not account for government actions. This article presents a model that captures the decision making ofExpand
Understanding the Dynamics of Violent Political Revolutions in an Agent-Based Framework
This paper develops an agent-based computational model of violent political revolutions in which a subjugated population of citizens and an armed revolutionary organisation attempt to overthrow aExpand
Why) Do Revolutions Spread
The research of revolutions - attempts to overthrow or change the government relying on mass movements - has been mostly limited to qualitative case studies. Big-N, quantitative studies have focusedExpand
Debating the Color Revolutions: An Interrelated Wave
Abstract: In contrast to the arguments of those who study the color revolutions as an interrelated phenomenon, Lucan Way’s highly structural account considers the failure of authoritarianExpand
Repressed productive potential and revolt: insights from an insurgency in Burundi
Abstract The relationship between participation in revolt and individuals' economic conditions is among the most debated in political science. While conventional economic theory suggests that thoseExpand
What the Laws Demand of Socrates-And of Us
In historical and strategic context, the argument of the Laws in Plato’s Crito should be understood not as an argument for legal obedience in general, but as an argument against the public display ofExpand


The Poverty of Historicism
On its publication in 1957, The Poverty of Historicism was hailed by Arthur Koestler as 'probably the only book published this year which will outlive the century.' A devastating criticism of fixedExpand
The tenacious past: Theories of personal and collective conservatism
Abstract A number of theories have been developed to explain why societies do not always adapt to changing conditions. These are critiqued here, with an emphasis on their substantive andExpand
Theories of Revolution in Contemporary Historiography
Revolution has been the subject of investigation by philosophers and historians since almost the beginning of the Western intellectual tradition. Plato and Aristotle were the first to deal withExpand
Power in Numbers: The Political Strategy of Protest and Rebellion.
This book explores the logic of struggle between radical movements and incumbent regimes, and develops a general theory of strategy in protests, uprisings, and rebellions.Originally published inExpand
The nature of historical explanation
Gardiner approaches the idea of a philosophy of history by first giving an outline of the regularity interpretation of explanation. How far it is possible to regard all historical explanations, orExpand
Why Men Rebel
Why Men Rebel was first published in 1970 on the heels of a decade of political violence and protest not only in remote corners of Africa and Southeast Asia, but also at home in the United States.Expand
Through a model that distinguishes between privately-held and publicly-declared preferences, and between private and public beliefs, this paper explains why a society might c ling to its pastExpand
Economic development and revolutionary upheavals in Iran
The present article is an attempt to trace the economic and social forces which led to the Iranian Revolution of February 1979 that took the world by surprise, not only because it occurred in aExpand
Iran: A Theory of Revolution from Accounts of the Revolution
Four issues must be articulated and related in order to create a general theory of revolution: revolutionary leadership and organization, mass participation, the nature of revolutionary action, andExpand
The old régime and the French Revolution
Alexis de Tocqueville, known and still frequently quoted for his book on democracy in America, started at the end of his life to write a book on the French Revolution, only the first part of whichExpand