Out-group conflict, in-group unity? Exploring the effect of repression on intramovement cooperation

Theodore McLauchlin, Wendy Pearlman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


Does repression increase or decrease unity within ethnic or nationalist movements? Conventional wisdom lends itself to two contradictory predictions. On one hand, it is said that conflict with an out-group is the surest path to unity in an in-group. On the other hand, repression exaggerates the gap between radicals and moderates in a movement. Challenging both views, this article argues that repression amplifies trends in cooperation or conflict existent in a movement before the onset of repression. All movements have some institutional arrangement, meaning a set of procedures and relationships that structure decision making and behavior. These "rules of the game" distribute power within the movement, and thus favor some actors over others. Repression disrupts the equilibrium of these institutions, after which the members might engage in either more cooperation or more conflict, depending on the level of satisfaction with preexisting institutional arrangements. The authors illustrate these propositions through comparative analysis of four repression shocks from two nationalist movements: the Kurdish movement in Iraq and the Palestinian national movement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)41-66
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Conflict Resolution
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2012


  • Cooperation
  • Fragmentation
  • Nationalist movements
  • Nonstate actors
  • Repression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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