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The physics of dissent and the effects of movement momentum

Chenoweth, Erica, Belgioioso, Margherita (2019) The physics of dissent and the effects of movement momentum. Nature Human Behaviour, 3 . pp. 1088-1095. E-ISSN 2397-3374. (doi:10.1038/s41562-019-0665-8) (KAR id:76627)


How do ‘people power’ movements succeed when modest proportions of the population participate? Here we propose that the effects of social movements increase as they gain momentum. We approximate a simple law drawn from physics: momentum equals mass times velocity (p = mv). We propose that the momentum of dissent is a product of participation (mass) and the number of protest events in a week (velocity). We test this simple physical proposition against panel data on the potential effects of movement momentum on irregular leader exit in African countries between 1990 and 2014, using a variety of estimation techniques. Our findings show that social movements potentially compensate for relatively modest popular support by concentrating their activities in time, thus increasing their disruptive capacity. Notably, these findings also provide a straightforward way for dissidents to easily quantify their coercive potential by assessing their participation rates and increased concentration of their activities over time.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1038/s41562-019-0665-8
Additional information: Unmapped bibliographic data: LA - English [Field not mapped to EPrints] J2 - Nat. Hum. Behav. [Field not mapped to EPrints] AD - Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, United States [Field not mapped to EPrints] AD - Department of Politics and History, Brunel University London, London, United Kingdom [Field not mapped to EPrints] DB - Scopus [Field not mapped to EPrints] M3 - Article [Field not mapped to EPrints]
Uncontrolled keywords: government, social sciences
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Politics and International Relations
Depositing User: Margherita Belgioioso
Date Deposited: 03 Oct 2019 08:42 UTC
Last Modified: 04 Mar 2024 15:19 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Belgioioso, Margherita.

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