Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Megan A. Stewart's "Governing for Revolution"

Megan A. Stewart is an Assistant Professor at American University's School of International Service. Her research investigates how and why political actors create new social, economic and political orders, and the enduring consequences of these endeavors.

Stewart applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Governing for Revolution: Social Transformation in Civil War, and reported the following:
On page 99 of Governing for Revolution, I introduce my first case study: the Eritrean War of Independence. On that page, I talk about my main motivating puzzle: why do some rebel groups undertake costly or challenging governance programs during war? I also describe the methods and data I use in the chapter. To that end, the 99th page test is about 40% accurate: there is a taste of the motivating question and some description of the archival data I use in what is probably my most compelling case. But readers do not get an answer to my puzzle, and I'd like to hope that my answer is at least slightly more compelling than the question I pose.

What is my answer, then? I argue that to understand why rebels implement challenging governance programs during war, we have to first understand the actions of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) during the Chinese Civil War. During the war, the CCP invested heavily in transforming the social order, including attempting to fundamentally restructure status hierarchies, such as inequalities between classes, races and genders. To achieve such change, the CCP introduced certain governance programs that directly altered status hierarchies, such as land reform, but these programs were sometimes unpopular and met with occasional resistance. The CCP could have saved these programs until after war, when it would be easier to do, but the CCP did not. Throughout the process, the CCP also propagated their wartime governance strategy globally, referring to their experience as a model to be imitated by others.

Later rebel leaders emerged in a global context saturated with information about the CCP, but not all rebel leaders rely on this information. What determines the extent to which leaders use the information about the CCP’s experience are rebel groups’ long-term goals. Once rebel leaders decide what their goals are, they need to figure out how to achieve them. When rebel groups have revolutionary goals, they have similar ambitions to the CCP. These shared ambitions caused rebel leaders to decide to imitate the CCP’s model and they implemented the same governance strategies during war as the CCP did. Over time, rebel leaders with revolutionary goals sometimes even received material benefits by conforming to the CCP's model. When rebel goals are less revolutionary, however, they copy less of the CCP's governance strategies and they are less likely to implement the same challenging governance programs that the CCP did.
Visit Megan A. Stewart's website.

--Marshal Zeringue