Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science

Document Type



The main analytical concern of this dissertation is to develop theoretical and methodological tool to improve our understanding of collective violence, like civil wars, riots, etc. There are essentially two major problems in the existing literature: compartmentalization of focus on structure or action and inadequate systematic analysis of bridging this gap. This dissertation is an attempt to address these deficiencies in the literature. Using the opportunity-willingness framework of interstate conflicts, I propose a mid-range theoretical approach to the structure-action problem. I argue that structural and political opportunities lead to more collective action if willingness is present in the form of grievances from low government social expenditures. I identify the particular structural and political factors that create the opportunity for collective action. Since opportunity alone will not provide a sufficient explanation of collective dissent, one would need to consider the decision calculus of the actors too. In order to do that I propose that grievances caused among people due to low level of government social expenditure creates the willingness to choose collective action. Finally, the combination of the (structural-political) opportunities and the willingness (related to grievances) facilitates several solutions of collective action problems faced by dissidents. By reducing free-riding, opportunistic behavior, pecuniary interests of the rebels, the combined effect of structural opportunities and grievances lead to collective dissent. This dissertation also emphasizes the fact that different solutions to collective action problems have different outcomes. Some structural factors may be more relevant for low-intensity civil violence like riots, while others can lead to revolutionary overthrow of the incumbent by large-scale collective violence like revolutions and civil wars. These assumptions lead to three hypotheses which are tested using large-N datasets and different estimation techniques. I also try to address the second drawback by providing substantial empirical analysis both at cross-national level for the period 1970-99, and at sub-national levels in two countries, India and South Africa, for the period 1999-2006.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

David Sobek