Michael Rubin

Rebel Territorial Control and Civilian Collective Action in Civil War: Evidence from the Communist Insurgency in the Philippines

Under what conditions do rebel organizations control territory during civil war? How do civilians influence the distribution of territorial control? This article introduces a civilian agency theory, emphasizing community collective action capacity (CAC) defined by underlying social network structure, to complement existing explanations of territorial control. I argue communities with greater CAC mobilize information and resources more efficiently, increasing belligerents’ incentives to control territory. However, CAC also increases community bargaining power to demand costly investments in governance, partially offsetting these gains. CAC increases rebel control in areas of state neglect. But, as state service provision increases, communities leverage CAC to demand prohibitively costly rebel governance, deterring rebel control. This article tests the theory in the context of the communist insurgency in the Philippines, using military intelligence reports from 2011 to 2014 to measure village-level communist insurgent territorial control and a household-level census (2008–2010) to measure village CAC. Interviews with village elders in Eastern Mindanao illustrate causal mechanisms and explore alternative explanations.

Journal of Conflict Resolution

The University of Chicago