Repression and Revolutionary Action
A theoretical model is proposed explaining why repression sometimes deters and sometimes instigates political action. Then this model is applied to explain the mounting protests in East Germany in 1989. The basic idea of the model is that repression, as a cost, has a direct deterring effect on political action, but that increasing repression instigates positive incentives up to a certain point; then positive incentives decrease—a relationship corresponding to an inverted u-curve. Apart from repression, public goods incentives (discontent, weighted by perceived political influence), moral incentives, and social incentives have positive effects on participation in protest. A representative survey of 1,300 citizens from Leipzig (East Germany) conducted in the fall of 1990, focusing on the events of the East German revolution in 1989, confirms the model with two exceptions: Increasing probability of repression raises protest, but the increase becomes smaller with increasing probability of repression (decreasing radicalization effect); increasing costs of repression lowers protest, but the decrease becomes smaller with increasing costs of repression (decreasing deterrence effect). It is argued that the protests in East Germany could emerge despite severe repression because positive incentives to protest increased due to political events.