Vanguards in revolution

Mehdi Shadmehr, Dan Bernhardt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Revolutionary vanguards, their radicalism and coercive actions, and their interactions with ordinary citizens and the state are common threads in narratives of revolutionary movements. But what are the defining features of revolutionary vanguards? The literature is replete with terms that allude to some notion of a revolutionary vanguard (e.g., revolutionary entrepreneurs, entrepreneurs of violence, early-risers), but the essence of these conceptions and their implications for revolutionary process remain obscure. We identify and differentiate the two main notions of vanguards, the Leninist and “early-riser” notions, and develop a formal framework that captures their distinguishing features, deriving their implications for the likelihood of revolution. We then use this framework to study three related and overlooked topics: (a) state strategies in mitigating the vanguard's influence on citizens; (b) citizens' preferences for the degree of vanguard radicalism; and (c) the vanguards' use of coercion against citizens.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)146-166
Number of pages21
JournalGames and Economic Behavior
StatePublished - May 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Coercion
  • Coordination
  • Learning
  • Option to delay
  • Radicalism
  • Revolution
  • Vanguard

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Finance
  • Economics and Econometrics


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