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The Ba'athist blackout? Selective goods provision and political violence in the Syrian civil war

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De Juan, Alexander; Bank, André

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Abstract Many authoritarian regimes selectively provide critical segments of the population with privileged access to goods and services, expecting political support in return. This article is interested in the effects of this regime strategy: Is violent opposition less likely to occur in subnational regions bound to the ruling elite through such patron–client networks? For its empirical analysis, the article makes use of crowdsourcing data on the number and geospatial distribution of fatalities in the Syrian civil war from March 2011 to November 2012. In terms of selective goods provision, the focus is on the electricity sector. Satellite images of the earth at night are used to proxy spatial variations in the public distribution of electricity in times of power shortages. These data are complemented with information from the last Syrian population census of 2004. Estimations from fixed effect logit models lend support to the hypothesis that the risk of violence has been lower in subdistricts that have been favored by the ruling regime in terms of preferential access to material goods. This hypothesis is further corroborated with qualitative evidence from Syrian localities.
Keywords civil war; Syria; political regime; political strategy; opposition; nonmarket good; electric power industry; census; elite; privilege; political stability; political support; propensity to violence; redistribution
Classification Political System, Constitution, Government; Political Process, Elections, Political Sociology, Political Culture
Method empirical
Free Keywords crowdsourcing; nightlights
Document language English
Publication Year 2015
Page/Pages 91–104 p.
Journal Journal of Peace Research, 52 (2015) 1
ISSN 1460-3578
Status Published Version; peer reviewed
Licence Deposit Licence - No Redistribution, No Modifications
This publication is with permission of the rights owner freely accessible due to an Alliance licence and a national licence (funded by the DFG, German Research Foundation) respectively.