Weinstein, Jeremy M. Inside Rebellion: The Politics of Insurgent Violence. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007. -

Weinstein, Jeremy M. Inside Rebellion: The Politics of Insurgent Violence. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

Kanisha D. Bond
The Pennsylvania State University

1 In Inside Rebellion: The Politics of Insurgent Violence, Jeremy Weinstein provides a detailed empirical investigation into the “micropolitics of rebellion” (p. 38), explicating the link between rebel behavior and rebel leaders’ management of both external resources and internal pressures. Although many studies of rebel violence in civil wars focus on the role of opposing state forces in explaining variation in group behaviors, Weinstein argues instead that the use of rebel violence can be explained, in part, by the internal dynamics of such organizations. A key theme underpinning the analyses presented in this book is that insurgent groups are little different from other political organizations, and as such are constrained in their operations from within and without. (p. 51)

2 The main finding of this book is that rebel organizations that emerge in resource-rich environments tend to commit higher levels of indiscriminate violence, while initially resource-poor organizations are more likely to be selective in their employ of violent behavior against civilians. (p. 7) For Weinstein, the group’s initial resource endowment constitutes a significant external constraint on rebel behavior through shaping its membership profile. Internally, the management of the organization’s membership is a critical concern. Weinstein classifies rebel organizations into two groups whose constitutions are based upon incentives for individual participation. (pp. 9-11, 204-08) He argues that “activist rebellions” emerge largely in resource-poor environments and so attract high-commitment individuals who are motivated primarily by ideology. Prone to self-policing through the development of effective norms and stable control structures, these organizations are less likely to engage in wanton violence against civilians. (pp. 204-06) In contrast, “opportunistic rebellions” emerge in resource-rich environments, having attracted low-commitment individuals with the short-term material benefits from participation, rather than social solidarity. Weinstein argues that unchecked individualism plagues these organizations’ ability to develop meaningful control structures to constrain members and contributes to unpunished violence against non-combatants. (pp. 204-05)

3 Weinstein combines the comparative method with large-N analysis in this book. He first employs process tracing to connect the use of violence against civilians by the National Resistance Army (NRA) in Uganda, RENAMO in Mozambique, Peru’s Central Committee of Shining Path and its offshoot, the Shining Path Regional Committee of Alto Huallaga (Shining Path-CRH). In relating each group’s initial resource endowment to their levels of violence against civilians, Weinstein’s theory is borne out through the case studies. He shows how the Shining Path and NRA, which began as resource-poor movements that recruited members motivated by long-term gains, became activist rebellions that cultivated respect among civilians, while the resource-rich Shining Path-CRH and RENAMO developed into opportunistic movements comprised of myopic, undisciplined members who engaged in heavy violence against non-combatants (pp. 299-300). These findings are augmented by a quantitative analysis of civil wars since 1945, in which the author finds increases in combat-related deaths to be associated with the presence of rebel financing through contraband and external intervention on the rebels’ behalf. (Table 8.1, p. 307)

4 While Weinstein should be commended for his efforts to provide multi-method support for his arguments, the quantitative analysis is not particularly compelling. First, while Weinstein is interested in the level of civilian deaths attributable to rebel violence, he is confined by data availability to using (admittedly imprecise) measures of aggregate combat-related deaths (pp. 306-07). Additionally, Weinstein only includes variables for a group’s initial economic endowment in his statistical model, although rebel strength was argued to have both a social and an economic component. By omitting a measure of social endowment from the model, the reader is precluded from evaluating previous arguments about the relationship between the social and economic endowments. Finally, while the external intervention variable should speak only to changes in initial strength, it is unclear whether the variable indicates outside sponsorship present only at a group’s inception, or if it includes sponsorship offered during the course of conflict. In order to ensure that this variable reflects initial capabilities, it would be useful to have controlled for the timing of the intervention.

5 Nonetheless, the difficulties in empirically testing Weinstein’s arguments are not confined to this study; a scarcity of micro-level quantitative data on the behavior of rebel organizations during civil wars makes precise statistical testing of such arguments challenging. However, the author deftly leverages the comparative method to describe a logic of rebel violence in civil war that is predicated upon the management of both human and material resources. In doing so, Weinstein provides an excellent contribution to the development of the study of violent rebellion and insurgency.

Kanisha D. Bond is a graduate student of international relations at The Pennsylvania State University.