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Sparks and prairie fires: A theory of unanticipated political revolution


  • Timur Kuran


A feature shared by certain major revolutions is that they were not anticipated. Here is an explanation, which hinges on the observation that people who come to dislike their government are apt to hide their desire for change as long as the opposition seems weak. Because of this preference falsification, a government that appears unshakeable might see its support crumble following a slight surge in the opposition's apparent size, caused by events insignificant in and of themselves. Unlikely though the revolution may have appeared in foresight, it will in hindsight appear inevitable because its occurrence exposes a panoply of previously hidden conflicts. Copyright Kluwer Academic Publishers 1989

Suggested Citation

  • Timur Kuran, 1989. "Sparks and prairie fires: A theory of unanticipated political revolution," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 61(1), pages 41-74, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:pubcho:v:61:y:1989:i:1:p:41-74
    DOI: 10.1007/BF00116762

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Kuran, Timur, 1988. "The tenacious past: Theories of personal and collective conservatism," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 10(2), pages 143-171, September.
    2. Walton, Thomas, 1980. "Economic Development and Revolutionary Upheavals in Iran," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 4(3), pages 271-292, September.
    3. Kuran, Timur, 1987. "Preference Falsification, Policy Continuity and Collective Conservatism," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 97(387), pages 642-665, September.
    4. Timur Kuran, 1987. "Chameleon voters and public choice," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 53(1), pages 53-78, January.
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