Political autonomy and independence: theory and experimental evidence

Klaus Abbink, Jordi Brandts

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3 Citations (Scopus)


We use a game-theoretical model and results from laboratory experiments to study the process by which subordinated regions of a country can obtain a more favorable political status. In our theoretical model a dominant and a dominated region first interact through a political process. This process involves two referenda, one at the level of the country as a whole and one at the level of the subordinated region. If the political process succeeds, then the new autonomy level is implemented. If this process fails, then both regions engage in a costly political conflict in which both sides can spend resources to win the upper hand. We show that in the subgame-perfect equilibrium of our game the voting process leads to an intermediate arrangement acceptable for both parts so that the costly political struggle never occurs. In contrast, in our experiments we observe frequent fighting involving high material losses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)461-496
Number of pages36
JournalJournal of Theoretical Politics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2016


  • collective action
  • independence movements
  • laboratory experiments
  • rent-seeking
  • Secession

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