Why do some national movements succeed at creating their own states while others fail? This fundamental question lies at the heart of Peter Krause’s important new book. While recognizing the excellence of much of the existing theoretical and empirical research on social movements and violence, Krause argues that this scholarship has not fully appreciated “the competitive internal dynamics that are at the foundation of the success of groups and the movements of which they are a part” (8). He advances a structural theory in Rebel Power, which he calls “Movement Structure Theory (MST),” to account for how the distribution of power among individual groups contributes to the success or failure of national movements. The national movements most likely to successfully gain their own states, Krause argues, are those that feature a hegemonic actor vastly stronger than other rival actors. Free from concerns about losing their position of leadership within the movement, hegemonic actors can concentrate their efforts and resources against their external adversary. In his view, “In a hegemonic movement, there is more pursuit of victory and less counterproductive violence, making such movements far more successful. A hegemonic movement—with one dominant group—incentivizes the pursuit of victory and reduces counterproductive violent mechanisms because the hegemon has no challengers to outbid, fight, or spoil” (11).

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International Security coverIn his first inaugural address, in 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt reassured a country consumed by the Great Depression that Americans would “face the arduous days that lie before us in the warm courage of unity.”[1] Yet at times of great political challenge, agreement on a clear, resounding objective does not guarantee unity of effort inside political movements. National movements provide an extreme example of this problem. They can ill afford what Nelson Mandela, one of the leading figures of the African National Congress, in 1976 called “the luxury of division and disunity.” [2] Yet many are riven by those same internecine forces even as they fight for freedom and rights through national independence.

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