Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Political Science


George Andreopoulos

Subject Categories

Comparative Politics | International Relations | Near and Middle Eastern Studies | Political Economy | Quantitative, Qualitative, Comparative, and Historical Methodologies | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Sociology


Authoritarianism, Social Movements, Middle East North Africa, Repression, Concessions


The Arab Spring revolts of late 2010 and 2011 were a profound moment in the history of a region troubled by decades of authoritarianism. Years of economic mismanagement and security force repression trammeled on the rights and aspirations of people striving for a better life. When social movements and anti-government protests erupted throughout the region, each country responded to the uprisings with different methodologies. This research closely examines why autocratic regimes of the region chose such divergent responses, with some opting to use violent repression, others attempting to make concessions and most combined repression with concessions. I will make the argument that authoritarian regimes use a cost-benefit analysis based on the rational choice theory, of whether state-sponsored violence on peaceful protests will ensure the survival of the regime and the individual autocrat. In the event the regime chooses not to fire on protesters, there are a number of intervening variables considered in this process. I argue that sectarian divisions within the armed forces are a fundamental determining factor in the regimes willingness to use violence. If the armed forces identify with the ethnic or religious sect of the ruling regime, the military is more likely to remain loyal and fire on protesters. The financial incentives of the armed forces also determine military action. If the regime protects the economic interests of the armed forces, the institution is more likely to remain loyal than not. A patrimonially based military, structured along ethnic or sectarian ties to the ruling regime, will have more at stake and view an uprising as an existential threat, backing the regime and using repression. When armed forces are highly institutionalized, based on professionalism and conscription that represents society at large, not the ruling elite, the military will be less likely to support violent repression. I will also argue that external support is another extremely important variable. External support can either facilitate or stifle the possibility of repression, depending on the nature of the relationship between the allied states, and the geostrategic objective in question. Also important in the discussion is the strength and structure of the anti-government movement.