Higher education and violent revolutionary activism under authoritarianism: Subnational evidence from Iran

  • Peyman Asadzade (Contributor)



Existing research shows that education reduces the likelihood of individuals’ participation in political violence and increases conventional political participation, such as voting. However, how does education affect political behavior in authoritarian contexts where opportunities for conventional political participation are limited or non-existent? Focusing on higher education, I argue that college education is likely to encourage violent revolutionary activism in authoritarian contexts because of two mechanisms. First, higher educational institutions facilitate social network-building and, as a result, make recruitment easier. Second, higher education increases expectations for political participation in authoritarian contexts where opportunities for institutionalized activity are often limited. The absence of peaceful paths for political engagement makes violent activism an appealing choice under authoritarianism. I use an original dataset of Iranian armed revolutionary activists in the 1960s and the 1970s to test the argument. I utilize quantitative and qualitative sources such as census data, biographical information, primary archival documents, and interviews with former revolutionary activists to explore why individuals engage in violent activism under authoritarianism and how education contributes to their decision to join armed anti-government groups. The findings suggest that higher education significantly increases the probability of individuals’ participation in armed revolutionary activism against authoritarianism.
Date made availableJan 1 2021
Publisherfigshare SAGE Publications

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