Control, Coercion, and Cooptation

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This article examines how rebels govern after winning a civil war. During war, both sides - rebels and their rivals - form ties with civilians to facilitate governance and to establish control. To consolidate power after war, the new rebel government engages in control through its ties in its wartime strongholds, through coercion in rival strongholds where rivals retain ties, and through cooptation by deploying loyal bureaucrats to oversee development in unsecured terrain where its ties are weak. These strategies help to explain subnational differences in postwar development. The author analyzes Zimbabwe's Liberation War (1972-1979) and its postwar politics (1980-1987) using a difference-in-differences identification strategy that leverages large-scale education reforms. Quantitative results show that development increased most quickly in unsecured terrain and least quickly in rival strongholds. Qualitative evidence from archival and interview data confirms the theorized logic. The findings deepen understanding of transitions from conflict to peace and offer important insights about how wartime experiences affect postwar politics.





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Liu, SX (2022). Control, Coercion, and Cooptation. World Politics, 74(1). pp. 37–76. 10.1017/S0043887121000174 Retrieved from

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Shelley Liu

Assistant Professor in the Sanford School of Public Policy

Shelley Liu is an assistant professor at the Sanford School of Public Policy. Her primary research and teaching focuses on issues relating to conflict, development, and state-building in fragile political contexts. Her ongoing research projects examine (1) how war shapes politics and development, (2) citizen agency in state legibility projects, and (3) the determinants of polarization, politicization, and disengagement.  Liu's research has been published in the American Journal of Political Science, Journal of Peace Research, PLOS ONE, Political Science Research and Methods, Politics & Society, and World Politics. 

Prior to joining Duke faculty, Liu was an assistant professor at UC Berkeley, Goldman School of Public Policy. She holds a PhD in government from Harvard University (2020). 

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