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Revolutionary Pathways: Leaders and the International Impacts of Domestic Revolutions

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How much and in what ways do individual leaders matter for international politics? This article sheds new light on these questions by considering the consequences of domestic revolutions in international relations. We argue that revolutions have international effects due to two separate pathways, one associated with the event and one associated with the new leader's administration. In the first pathway, a revolutionary event disrupts established relationships and perceptions, creating uncertainty both within the state and abroad. In the second pathway, revolutions put individuals into office who are more willing to challenge the status quo and who have publicly committed to a sustained shift in policies during their administration. These two distinct pathways suggest that the important question about revolutions is not whether leaders or events matter most but rather the conditions under which they matter. Consequently, we studied these pathways on three phenomena: international economic sanctions, domestic economic growth, and interstate alliances. We find that revolutionary events have a short-term negative effect on domestic economic growth, while revolutionary leaders have a long-term effect on the probability that a revolutionary state is targeted for sanctions. Both the revolutionary leader and the revolution's immediate events alter the state's international alliances. Our findings suggest that no single level of analysis completely dominates, and the answer depends on the outcome of interest.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Interactions
Volume43
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)480-506
Number of pages26
ISSN0305-0629
StatePublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes
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