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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Resilience Beyond Rebellion: How Wartime Organizational Structures Affect Rebel-to-Party Transformation

  • Author(s): Zaks, Sheryl
  • Advisor(s): Collier, David
  • Hassner, Ron
  • et al.
Abstract

Scholars have established that the best prospects for long-term stability and democratization in war-torn states occur when former rebels compete in post-conflict elections. However, only half of the insurgencies with political aspirations successfully reinvent themselves as lasting opposition parties. Why are some rebel groups able to seamlessly transition into political parties while others revert to violence or die trying? My dissertation draws on insights from organizational sociology to model the process and risks of rebel-to-party transition. I identify three wartime domains that I call proto-party structures: shadow governance, political messaging, and social service wings. Proto-party structures represent a surprising dimension of rebel organizational diversity. Crucially, however, not all insurgencies have them. I demonstrate that these structures---by mirroring the key components of political party organizations---provide insurgencies with two decisive advantages when attempting to transition into a party: (1) relevant experience that translates into the political arena, and (2) an easier path to transition by repurposing existing structures rather than building a party from scratch. I use a mixed-method approach---combining statistical analyses on a novel dataset with process tracing in three cases---to test my organizational theory of transition.

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