In This Review

Resistance and Rebellion: Lessons from Eastern Europe
Resistance and Rebellion: Lessons from Eastern Europe
By Roger D. Petersen
Cambridge University Press, 2001, 321 pp

A highly systematic explanation, built from the ground up, of why people would rebel and take up arms against a much stronger and better-armed regime. Petersen uses the anti-Soviet resistance in Lithuania during four periods (1940-41, 1944-50, 1987-88, and 1991) to construct a surprisingly coherent and fine-grained argument. With some justification, he suggests that his approach would apply even in cases such as the Palestinian uprising and Northern Ireland. In particular, he is interested in what impels individuals to move from symbolic, relatively low-risk gestures of protest to life-threatening actions. Ideology and charismatic leaders play a role, he says, but they are not the main reason. Rather, resistance is a varied process throughout the area of rebellion, differing in intensity from one community (village, university, etc.) to another. Strong communities create the ethos, impulses, and incentives that make the difference. Weak ones do not. Peterson has produced not only a skillful explanation for a particular phenomenon but a constructive dialogue with rational choice theorists, particularly those exploring "analytic narratives."