A consortium of researchers dedicated to improving the understanding of the human causes and consequences of terrorism

Anger or Ability: Arguing the Causes of Rebellion


History books are so filled with stories of rebellion that it would seem that rebellion is a common thing. If we look at history as the flow of days and events, for most of those days for the vast majority of humans, rebellion has been a very rare thing. This is despite the fact that life for the vast majority of people for much of the last 2,000 years was one of unfairness, hardship, and repression. According to data from the Quality of Government Institute at the University of Gothenburg, in a sample of countries from 1976 to 2004, the percentage in which political murder, police brutality, and unlimited detentions were common was at least 49% of the total sample in any given year, and often was much higher than that.1 Nevertheless, in the same sample of countries during those years, rebellions or civil wars never occurred more than 10% of the time. In other words, many governments treat their people very badly, but only on rare occasions do enough people rise up to start a full-scale civil war or rebellion.

Publication Information

Full Citation:

Asal, Victor, and Steve Sin. “Anger or Ability: Arguing the Causes of Rebellion.” Combating Terrorism Exchange, 3-1 (February 2013): 42-44.

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