Historical institutionalism, prospect theory and an alternative theory of collective violence
Mitchell, Stacey Marie Gibson
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Rwanda and Burundi are both poor, densely populated, multiethnic countries that formally began the process of democratization in the early 1990s. Shortly thereafter, resistance to reform led to coups d’état and the assassination of both countries’ presidents. It is here that the parallel paths of the two similar countries diverge. In Rwanda, a total genocide of the country’s Tutsi population was perpetrated by extremist Hutu factions in 1994. In Burundi, however, genocide did not occur. The country instead collapsed into civil war. This variation in outcome is inadequately explained by the micro-, meso-, and macro-level theories frequently applied to one or both cases. This theoretical deficiency is attributed to problems of structure and agency, and an over reliance on the assumption that actors behave as rational utility maximizers. To better explicate the relationship between democratization and collective violence in Rwanda and Burundi, this dissertation utilizes an integrative approach that combines two distinct, but compatible theories: historical institutionalism and prospect theory. This dissertation argues that institutional legacies influenced the success of democratization and the degree of collective violence that occurred in both countries. Consistent with the core assumptions of both theories, the results of a most similar systems analysis demonstrate that an institutional legacy characterized by an asymmetrical distribution of power between groups induces incumbent leaders to perceive joint-rule from the domain of losses. Conversely, when a country has had greater experience with formal and informal democratic traditions and practices, the likelihood that multiparty democracy will be perceived by incumbent elites from the domain of gains is increased. The results of the content analysis performed by this study further demonstrate that actors who perceive multiparty democracy as a loss are more likely to favor risk-seeking strategies in response to political liberalization. Additionally, the analysis reveals that actors who perceive multiparty democracy as a gain are more likely to favor a risk-averse policy course.