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Why is there no Revolution in North-Korea? The Political Economy of Revolution Revisited

  • Thomas Apolte

In this paper the political economy of revolutions is revisited, as it has been developed and applied in a number of publications by Acemoglu and Robinson. We criticize the fact that these authors abstract from collective-action problems and focus on inequality of income or wealth instead. In doing so, they reanimate a long but misleading tradition in social sciences, namely to directly deduct prospective group behavior from the collective interest of a group. We show that, because of collective-action problems, income inequality is not a sufficient condition for a revolution to occur. Furthermore, we also show that inequality does not even need to be a necessary condition, since all what is needed in order for a group to be interested in a revolution is that this group as a whole can expect to be a beneficiary of a revolution. For the latter to apply, however, inequality is not necessary. Hence, not inequality but rather a certain structure of commitment devices or their absence is crucial for explaining why revolutions sometimes occur and sometimes not.

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Paper provided by Institute of Spatial and Housing Economics, Munster Universitary in its series Working Papers with number 200102.

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Handle: RePEc:muc:wpaper:200102
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  1. Acemoglu, Daron & Robinson, James A, 1999. "A Theory of Political Transitions," CEPR Discussion Papers 2277, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Daron Acemoglu & James A. Robinson, 2000. "Why Did The West Extend The Franchise? Democracy, Inequality, And Growth In Historical Perspective," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 115(4), pages 1167-1199, November.
  3. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521583299 is not listed on IDEAS
  4. Howitt, Peter & Wintrobe, Ronald, 1995. "The political economy of inaction," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(3), pages 329-353, March.
  5. Acemoglu, Daron & Robinson, James A, 2002. "The Political Economy of the Kuznets Curve," Review of Development Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 6(2), pages 183-203, June.
  6. Timothy Besley & Masayuki Kudamatsu, 2007. "Making autocracy work," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 3764, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  7. Timur Kuran, 1989. "Sparks and prairie fires: A theory of unanticipated political revolution," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 61(1), pages 41-74, April.
  8. Acemoglu, Daron, 2003. "Why not a political Coase theorem? Social conflict, commitment, and politics," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(4), pages 620-652, December.
  9. Eli Berman & David D. Laitin, 2008. "Religion, Terrorism and Public Goods: Testing the Club Model," NBER Working Papers 13725, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2001. "The Colonial Origins of Comparative Development: An Empirical Investigation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(5), pages 1369-1401, December.
  11. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521855266 is not listed on IDEAS
  12. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521671422 is not listed on IDEAS
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