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Links on the Chain: Popular Uprisings and Political Re-constitutions in the Global Middle East and North Africa

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This dissertation addresses puzzles of revolutions. It follows a lifecycle of the 2011 Arab Uprisings, asking: why do revolutionary situations emerge in some countries in the region and not in others; why do some mass attacks oust rulers and others do not; and why do some transitional struggles create democratized rule yet others restore autocracy. I use several methods of qualitative data analysis, including fsQCA and within- and cross-case analysis, and multiple methods of data collection, from calibrating macro-conditions using big data sets, to event-level newspaper data, archival materials from a key movement organization, and nearly 50 interviews of key participants. In terms of findings, first, I find that revolution attempts diffused from cases with an ‘ideal-typic’ causal configuration to later cases that progressively drop expected causes, set against negative cases that exhibit revolution-limiting conditions. Second, I argue that labor mobilization as part of broad-based mass mobilization, combined with autonomous military institutions, leads to regime overthrow, but without them, the door opens for external intervention to shape outcomes. Lastly, I argue that nonelite organized disruptive capacity – being able to sustain assertive multi-tactic campaigns and deploy ongoing protest and high-capacity strikes – helps popular actors democratize rule via constitution-making, while in its absence, autocratic restores can steer events.

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This item is under embargo until June 5, 2025.