From Dissent to Democracy: The Promise and Peril of Civil Resistance Transitions

Image credit: Arquivo da Agência Brasil via Wikimedia Commons


Research shows a strong connection between nonviolent civil resistance and democratization. Yet many successful civil resistance campaigns have been followed by authoritarian retrenchment. What explains this variation? Why are moments of hope when civil resistance topples dictators sometimes followed by moments of despair when dictators return to power? This book examines this question through a global, mixed-methods study, combining analysis of a new dataset of every political transition initiated through civil resistance from 1945 - 2014 with three in-depth case studies. It finds that dynamics of transitional politics, in particular the ability of civil society to maintain mobilization through the transitional period, and the reorientation of the political system away from maximalist, all-or-nothing contention and towards regular politics play the critical role in leading to successful democratic transitions. When either of these challenges are not met, a failed transition is likely.

Oxford University Press

Praise for From Dissent to Democracy

Up until now, we have known little about why some nonviolent revolutions consolidate democracy while others fail to do so. In an empirically rich analysis, Jonathan Pinckney examines this important but surprisingly neglected topic. From Dissent to Democracy significantly advances our understanding of post-uprising factors that shape the long-term trajectories of nonviolent revolutions.

Sharon Erickson Nepstad, Distinguished Professor of Sociology, University of New Mexico

Mass protests frequently drive democratization. But as the Arab Spring demonstrated, not all such mobilizations result in successful transitions to democratic rule; many such movements are successfully squashed. Combining high-quality statistical work as well as case studies of Brazil, Nepal, and Zambia, Pinckney lands on some crucial lessons.

Stephan Haggard, Distinguished Professor of Political Science, UC San Diego

This highly accessible and well-structured book deserves much praise and makes several significant contributions to the literature on nonviolent resistance and democratization…the book raises the bar for mixed methods approaches with its meticulous empirical analysis…and will be relevant to scholars interestsed in social movements and civil resistance, as well as democratization in general. By emphasizing possible “treatments” such as tactical choices and activists’ decisions rather than unchangeable structural conditions, it also transcends the academic realm and serves as an informative resource for policy practitioners and pro-democracy activists

Sebastian Hellmeier, in Democratization

Jonathan Pinckney
Jonathan Pinckney
Assistant Professor

My research interests include civil resistance, democratization, and peacebuilding.