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Seizing Power

The Strategic Logic of Military Coups

Naunihal Singh

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How coups happen and why half of them fail.

While coups drive a majority of regime changes and are responsible for the overthrow of many democratic governments, there has been very little empirical work on the subject. Seizing Power develops a new theory of coup dynamics and outcomes, drawing on 300 hours of interviews with coup participants and an original dataset of 471 coup attempts worldwide from 1950 to 2000. Naunihal Singh delivers a concise and empirical evaluation, arguing that understanding the dynamics of military factions is essential to predicting the success or failure of coups.

Si…

How coups happen and why half of them fail.

While coups drive a majority of regime changes and are responsible for the overthrow of many democratic governments, there has been very little empirical work on the subject. Seizing Power develops a new theory of coup dynamics and outcomes, drawing on 300 hours of interviews with coup participants and an original dataset of 471 coup attempts worldwide from 1950 to 2000. Naunihal Singh delivers a concise and empirical evaluation, arguing that understanding the dynamics of military factions is essential to predicting the success or failure of coups.

Singh draws on an aspect of game theory known as a coordination game to explain coup dynamics. He finds a strong correlation between successful coups and the ability of military actors to project control and the inevitability of success. Examining Ghana’s multiple coups and the 1991 coup attempt in the USSR, Singh shows how military actors project an image of impending victory that is often more powerful than the reality on the ground.

In addition, Singh also identifies three distinct types of coup dynamics, each with a different probability of success, based on where within the organization each coup originated: coups from top military officers, coups from the middle ranks, and mutinous coups from low-level soldiers.

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Seizing Power

Naunihal Singh

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Reviews

Reviews

This is a truly insightful book on a subject—coups as means of seizing power—that has been little researched and written about. Naunihal Singh is a true pioneer in that regard, and we must commend him for making a unique contribution to military knowledge with this important, highly useful, and valuable book.

Singh’s book is an informative read—even if you’re not planning a coup.

A powerful book on military coups. Singh's argument is convincing and straightforward.... Impressive. This reviewer would not be surprised if Seizing Power quickly establishes itself as a must-read for students of coups and military politics in the years to come.

An exceptional and sorely needed contribution to the literature on coups... Seizing Power also represents a useful companion to the study of civilian-military relations at a more general level... Singh ultimately delivers on crafting a novel theoretical insight along with a rich, layered research strategy to bolster his claims and advance our understanding of the dynamics of coup success or failure.

Well-written and organized, Singh’s argument and evidence represent a substantive contribution to the study of military coups in particular and the study of political instability in developing countries more generally. He offers a parsimonious theory with a clear set of predictions about the dynamics and the outcomes of coups.

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About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
264
ISBN
9781421422565
Illustration Description
6 b&w illus.
Table of Contents

List of Figures and Tables
Acknowledgments
1. Introduction
The Importance of Understanding Coups
Understanding Coup Outcomes and Dynamics
Other Theoretical Explanations
Background of Cases
Overview of

List of Figures and Tables
Acknowledgments
1. Introduction
The Importance of Understanding Coups
Understanding Coup Outcomes and Dynamics
Other Theoretical Explanations
Background of Cases
Overview of Chapters
2. Theory
Coups as Battles
Coups as Elections
Coups as Coordination Games
Conclusion
3. Counting Coups
Understanding Coup Attempts
Understanding Coup Outcomes
Understanding Coup Levels
Limitations
Conclusion
4. Coups from the Top of the Military
A Theory of Coups from the Top
The Case of Ghana, 1975
Ghana, 1978
Conclusion
5. Coups from the Middle
A Theory of Coups from the Middle
Ghana, 1967
Ghana, 1972
Conclusion
6. Coups from the Bottom
A Theory of Coups from the Bottom
Ghana, May 1979
Ghana, June 1979
Ghana, 1981
Conclusion
7. USSR, 1991
Background
Analysis
Conclusion
8. Conclusion
Implications for the Study of Civil-Military Relations
Implications for Future Coups
Implications for Policy
Appendix
References
Index

Author Bio
Featured Contributor

Naunihal Singh

Naunihal Singh is an assistant professor of international security studies at the Air War College in Alabama.