Research in Progress

Book Projects

The Rise and Fall of Personalist Dictatorship (tentative title, manuscript in process).

Description: This book project – co-authored with Abel Escriba-Folch, Wonjun Song, and Joseph G. Wright – will build on a stream of co-authored work to theorize and empirically test how personalist dictatorships emerge, how they endure, and why they fail in the post-World II period. The book explains how elite bargains shape the threat environment – from coups, assassinations, mass uprisings, and armed insurgency – to personalist dictators over time.

Book Chapters

John J. Chin. “Which Coups Promote Democracy? Revisiting the Good Coup Hypothesis” (under contract for Research Handbook on Authoritarianism, eds. Natasha Lindstaedt and Jeroen Van den Bosch, Edward Elgar Publishing.)

Working Papers

On Coups

Joan C. Timoneda, Abel Escriba-Folch, and John J. Chin. “The Rush To Personalize: Power Concentration After Failed Coups in Dictatorships.” (Revise and Resubmit at British Journal of Political Science)

Abstract: While scholars have studied the mechanisms of personalism in dictatorship in detail, little attention has been paid to how personalism evolves over time. In this article, we propose that personalism evolves non-linearly, and show that large, quite rapid increases in personalization by dictators occur after a failed coup attempt. The logic is that failed coups are information-revealing events, which provide the dictator with strong motives and ample opportunities to accumulate power in their hands. The leader uses this window of opportunity to consolidate power rapidly at the expense of the ruling coalition. We test the theory using time-series cross-sectional data from 114 countries between 1946 and 2010.

On Social Movements, Nonviolent Revolution, Civil Resistance, and Mass Protest

John J. Chin, Wonjun Song, and Joseph G. Wright. “Personalization of Power and Mass Uprisings in Dictatorships.” (Revise and Resubmit at British Journal of Political Science)

Abstract: Most major nonviolent civil resistance campaigns target autocratic regimes. Most dictators, however, are toppled by their close supporters, not civilian protestors. Building on theories of strategic interactions between leaders, security agents, and protesters, we make three core claims. First, protesters are relatively less likely to mount a major nonviolent uprising against dictatorships with personalized security forces since they realize that these dictatorships have partially mitigated, via loyalty mechanisms, the moral hazard in employing security agents against protesters. Second, the fate of personalized security forces is tied more closely to that of the dictator, making such forces relatively more likely to respond with repression to realized protest. Finally, although personalized security forces are more likely to deter mass mobilization and repress it once it manifests, they are nonetheless more likely to splinter should initial attempts at repression fail to end the uprising, making security force defections more likely. We leverage new data on security force personalization – a proxy for loyal security agents – and major nonviolent protest campaigns to test these expectations. Our theory explains why many dictatorships rarely face mass protest mobilization and why uprisings that are met with violent force often fail in bringing about new democracies even when security forces splinter.

John J. Chin and Dov Levin. “A Protest Vote? Partisan Electoral Interventions and the Onset of Electoral Revolutions.” Working Paper (under review).

Abstract: Do partisan electoral interventions by great powers bring about post-election nonviolent resistance campaigns in target countries? Both phenomena are quite common -- but the ties between them are yet to be investigated in a systematic manner. This paper examines this relationship using new, original data on such U.S. and Russian/Soviet electoral interventions (PEIG) and major nonviolent and violent episodes of resistance (NEVER) over the 1946 to 2000 period. Our results show that electoral interventions can significantly increase the chances of post-election protests in the target erupting under certain situations -- such as when the intervention is done in an overt manner or the meddling was conducted in favor of the challenger in that election but failed to gain the latter a victory in the ballot box.

John J. Chin and Jonathan Pinckney. “Nonviolent Capital: How International NGOs Promote Civil Resistance.” Working Paper.

Abstract: Does global or transnational civil society – the so-called “world polity” – promote mass contention within states? If so, are its effects limited to democracies or non-democracies, or to violent or nonviolent resistance movements? This paper examines the relationship between international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs) and the onset of “maximalist” protest and insurgency campaigns using new data on major violent and nonviolent episodes of resistance (NEVER) and INGOs from 1960 to 2013. Contrary to prior research relying on post-Cold War protest event data, the results show that INGOs significantly increase the likelihood of onset of nonviolent resistance campaigns targeting authoritarian regimes, but do not promote either violent insurgencies or nonviolent campaigns in democracies. The results point to the revolutionary promise of civil society to promote nonviolent regime change and democratization.

John J. Chin. “Re-counting Nonviolent Campaigns: Introducing the NEVER Dataset.” Working Paper.

Abstract: This article contributes to the nascent literature on civil resistance by introducing an original reconstruction and extension of data on major nonviolent and violent episodes of resistance (NEVER) from 1946 to 2013. The paper summarizes the rationale, coding rules, and updates made in the NEVER dataset and provides a detailed comparison with prior widely used datasets, namely NAVCO 2.0 and the Major Episodes of Contention (MEC) data. In contrast to prominent scholars who argue that nonviolent campaigns emerge and succeed equally regardless of a state’s material power, replication results using the new data indicate that state power is in fact a deterrent to successful mass uprisings.

On Democratization

John J. Chin. “Democratization in the Long Run: A Global Forecast.” Working Paper.

Abstract: Will the world become more or less democratic over the next three decades? Which regions and countries are ripe for the next wave of democratic transitions, and where is authoritarianism most likely to be resilient? Most political forecast models, such as those of the Political Instability Task Force, focus on regime change and transitions in the short-run (e.g. in just a few years). By contrast, this paper introduces a new long-run global forecast of democracy for the 2020-2050 period by drawing on historical data on democratization since 1945 and the most recent cliometric and economic forecast data through 2050. The paper applies the model to China, whose democratization prospects have been much debated. The model illuminates structural factors that push today’s autocracies towards democracy but others that push away. The new forecast model offers little consolation to forecasts of a liberal democratic “end of history” over the next decade (by 2030), but does offer a measure of optimism for a “long march” to democracy by 2050.

Ongoing Projects

"ColpusCast: Forecasting Reshuffling and Regime Change Coups"

“Re-syncing the CINC Data: Introducing the RE-CINC Dataset”

“Military Coups, Bloodshed, and Democratization”

“Testing the Locks on the Iron Cage of Liberalism”, with Jonathan Pinckney

“Coups and Ethnic Politics”, with Joseph G. Wright

“Territorial Concessions and Coup Opportunity in Dictatorships”, with David B. Carter