Center for Global Development
Existing theories of coups against democracies emphasize elite coup plotters’ motivations in terms of what they stand to gain from dictatorship and the threat of democracy to their interests. But holding interests constant, some potential plotters, by the nature of their social networks, have much more influence over whether or not a coup succeeds. Lauren Young, and her coauthors James Robinson and Suresh Naidu, develop a model of elite social networks and show that coup participation of elites is increasing in their network centrality, as is the extent to which they receive rents from a dictatorship.
Using an original dataset they constructed, the authors show that highly central families are more likely to be involved in importing and are more likely to participate in the 1991 coup against the democratic Aristide government. Additionally, they find that the retail prices of the staple goods imported by coup participators differentially increase during subsequent periods of non-democracy and that urban children born during periods of non-democracy are more likely to experience adverse health outcomes.
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Social Origins of Dictatorships: Elite Networks and Political Transitions in Haiti