In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Coups and Mutinies

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Military Mutinies
  • Datasets

International Relations Coups and Mutinies
Çağlar Kurç
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 May 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 May 2021
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199743292-0302


The violent and sudden overthrow of governments has caught the attention of many scholars from various disciplines and placed the incidence of coups at the center of such studies. The result is the emergence of a rich literature that has used a multitude of methods and factors to explain the incidence of coups and control of the military. Although the interest in the incidence of coups and coup-proofing has waxed and waned depending on the waves of democratization and occurrence of the coups, the literature continues to evolve as the recent scholarship has introduced different variables to understand coups. Parallel with coup research, scholars also have started to look into the other ways that a military interferes in politics as well as the impact of coups on other issues, such as democratization and military effectiveness. A military can interfere in politics in subtle ways, which can be within the bounds of the legal order of the state. What is more, even if the military engages in direct disobedience, such as mutinies, these acts do not necessarily turn into an attempt to overthrow the government. Thus military mutinies have started to draw attention. Especially the impact of loyalty and disobedience of militaries on the success and failure of civil unrest has become an important research area following the Arab Spring, and the effects of past coups, the threat of coups, and coup-proofing on other issues, such as democratization and military effectiveness, have become another research avenue within the literature. This literature focuses on how coups and coup-proofing have an overarching effect on the militaries and the political structure of states. The fear of coups can shape the democratization path and the choices that decision makers have. It has a direct impact on military policies, which can end up decreasing military effectiveness. Therefore, this article mainly focuses on the recent scholarship to present the most recent debates in the field. To this end, in the first section, the article presents a list of articles that present a general overview of the field and how the debates have changed over the years. In the second section, we will focus on the various ways that a military interferes with politics and debates on Controlling the Military. The third section delves into the causes of coups and presents a wide range of factors and approaches in understanding coups. The fourth section focuses on the overlooked aspect of military behavior: mutinies and rebellions. The fifth section brings all the previous sections together and investigates the impact of coups and rebellions on Democratization and Military Effectiveness. The final section provides an overview of the Datasets on coups and military participation in politics.

General Overviews

Political scientists, historians, sociologists, policy analysts, and practitioners have contributed significantly to the civil–military relations subfield, making it an interdisciplinary field with rich literature. Yet the interdisciplinary nature of the field does not mean that these different research areas are integrated with each other. Review articles provide an overview and the gateway to this rich literature by laying out the evolution of the debates in the subfield. Perlmutter 1986 reviews the literature within the framework of three different types of civil–military relations. Luckham 1994 adopts a regional focus. This review article discusses a wide range of issues (such as civilian control, regime type, causes of military interventions, and sociology of the military) from different perspectives, including Marxist approaches. Feaver 1999 focuses on the political science part of the literature; its analysis focuses on problems scholars are focusing on, how they are explaining the existence of those problems, and how they analyze the problems. Brooks 2019 points out the revitalization in the civil–military literature in the last decade but argues that the subfield remains divided across different subfields, regions, and forms of analysis. The article argues for more integration within the civil–military subfield and offers possible research avenues to reach this end.

  • Brooks, Risa A. “Integrating the Civil–Military Relations Subfield.” Annual Review of Political Science 22 (2019): 379–398.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev-polisci-060518-025407

    The article makes three important suggestions for the future path of civil–military relations research. These suggestions are (1) consideration of multidimensionality of civil–military relations in authoritarian regimes, (2) normalizing the military’s role in politics, and (3) integration of civil–military relations research into other research areas in political science.

  • Feaver, Peter D. “Civil–Military Relations.” Annual Review of Political Science 2 (1999): 211–241.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev.polisci.2.1.211

    An extensive investigation of the political science component of the civil–military relations literature that includes the earliest articles in the field.

  • Luckham, Robin. “The Military, Militarization and Democratization in Africa: A Survey of Literature and Issues.” African Studies Review 37.2 (1994): 13–75.

    DOI: 10.2307/524766

    An extensive review of the civil–military relations literature that focuses on Africa and includes Marxist perspectives, which is a rare find in the literature.

  • Perlmutter, Amos. “The Military and Politics in Modern Times: a Decade Later.” Journal of Strategic Studies 9.1 (1986): 5–15.

    DOI: 10.1080/01402398608437245

    A review of the civil–military relations literature in the 1970s and early 1980s.

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