This article contributes to growing efforts to explain when nonviolent resistance campaigns emerge in autocratic regimes. Building from a novel framework for distinguishing civil-military relations in autocracies, it contends that regimes in which military and political leaders engage in a ‘grand bargain’ generate opportunity structures that are especially amenable to nonviolent resistance. Militaries in these regimes exhibit distinctive characteristics – they are corporate, cohesive institutions as opposed to fragmented in structure and also wield political influence in regime institutions. Consequently, these militaries are especially inclined to care about their societal reputations and to retain their institutional independence from the regime’s political leaders. These factors together can lessen expectations among activists that the military will repress protests and increase the odds of elite splits in the face of mass movements. They also render the military more receptive to nonviolent protest tactics. We operationalize the concept of grand bargains with indicators from three datasets on civil-military relations and autocratic regimes. We then test the argument quantitatively using data on the onset of nonviolent resistance campaigns, as well as events-level data on nonviolent resistance campaigns. The findings support claims that civil-military grand bargains make nonviolent resistance in autocracies more likely, contributing to scholarship on this vital topic.
This was originally published on SAGE Publications Ltd: Journal of Peace Research: Table of Contents.